In February 2015, Elle King came out of nowhere with a fiery debut LP. The 25-year old singer/songwriter – who is the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider, but we don’t have to talk about that – spent several adolescent years wandering from club to club in the midst of New York City, listening to music and honing her own skills to the point where they could be delivered, in CD form, to my unsuspecting ears during a particularly long shift at the music store.
Elle King, who claims to draw influence from Johnny Cash, AC/DC, the Runaways, and Hank Williams among others, has successfully revealed herself as a country/rock goddess; a cross between Janis Joplin and Joan Jett. Her latest album, Love Stuff, is a unique and refreshing mix of twangy country sounds and good old rock n’ roll.
The opening track, titled fittingly “Where the Devil Don’t Go” draws the listener in immediately with a gentle guitar tune, which quickly turns into King’s declaration of rebellion: “where the devil don’t go is where I make my home.” It’s a catchy tune with satanic undertones, making it clear within the first three minutes of the album that this is going to be like nothing you’ve ever heard before. King’s distinctly scratchy voice catches strategically within every line, creating an intentional feeling of genuinity. It sets the tone of the album perfectly: Elle King is here to do her thing. She’s not about to take any shit from anyone. And she wants you to know it.
King mixes it up on track two with Ex’s and Oh’s, another catchy track but for a different reason. The first single from the album, Ex’s and Oh’s is a poppy tune complete with acoustic guitar, rhythmic clapping, and a simple but subtly vulgar chorus. The song explores, in King’s signature apathetic sassiness, the struggle of men falling in love with her: “They always want to come but they never want to leave.” It is deceptively smooth for a song that is meant to reveal King’s aversion to romance, further illustrating her character with this declarative album. This single is paired with a very well made and equally wholesome and animated music video
Track 7 delivers to the listener a masterfully crafted anthem called “America’s Sweetheart”. My personal favorite from the album, America’s Sweetheart is where King really makes the statement that Love Stuff attempts to convey. I was hooked from the bluegrass-inspired guitar intro, and immediately intrigued by the first few lines of the song: “I think I’m pretty with these old boots on….” The track is an anthem of independence and badassery, and it’s complemented perfectly by twangy rock sounds. “They said I’m too loud for this town/so I lit a match and I burned it down.” King’s message is a refreshing one: she is unafraid of being different, and her “flaws” are to be celebrated. With America’s Sweetheart, King demonstrates once again her artfully crafted personal style, summed up in this unique and empowering track.
The album draws to a close with a slower track. Make You Smile is another twangy acoustic song which shows King’s evasive soft side: “Say you’ll be my baby and I’ll be your girl….” It’s just as catchy and just as rebellious as the rest of the album, but something about the instrumentation and the vocals of this track is different. It’s more gentle, and the sneer in the vocals of the rest of the album is much less present here. King’s lyrics don’t disappoint with this poetic track, ending the album with a surprisingly warm “I would walk a thousand miles…just to make you smile.”
Elle King’s Love Stuff is a masterfully crafted album. It is the perfect combination of tough and twangy, with underlying messages of independence, self-acceptance and don’t-fuck-with-me. King’s lyrics are poetic but not obnoxiously so, and her distinct voice and sassy tone give them the essential element of “rough.” Her sound, a mix of country, soul, rock, and blues, is unique and refreshing, exactly the type of thing I didn’t know I was craving. Love Stuff is without a doubt one of 2015’s better releases, and I can’t wait to see what else Elle King has in store for us.