As I sit down to write this, the sky is full of gloomy clouds and it’s cold and wet outside. It is a stark contrast to the sunny, desert environs of Tempe, Arizona, where Emilio Couchee who performs under the name Elephant Weather, is based. The climate and probably rather high doses of vitamin D are what I imagine make Elephant Weather’s uppity blend of indie sound so happy and full of life.
Or it could also be the instrumentation; piano, bass, drums and horns, which gives his debut record Odd Skies such a sunny feeling. The piano is the instrument, which sticks out most here. It’s generally big and bouncy and Couchee’s vocals, which are clean and clear with a hint of David Byrne to them, is reminiscent of an old lounge crooner. Listening to the piano driven tracks on Odd Skies it seems almost impossible to think that Couchee has only recently picked up the piano, the guitar being his first instrument.
Odd Skies begins with the piano rolls on “The Boat” a bouncy indie rock ballad. Next comes the waltzing “It’s Okay,” which soon, after a quick deliberate stop goes into a bit of a rock slide and then morphs into piano lounge act simplicity and then returns to rock mode before ending with a neat piano “bop.”
Couchee takes a well-needed break from the piano rock on the sunny acoustic rocker “82 or 23” which is a bright side take on living one’s life. In the chorus Couchee sings, “I know I want, I want, to be a better man / I know I need, I need, to do the best I can / Because our time on earth is not for free / You could pay the price at 82 or 23.” By far the best track on Odd Skies is the delicious rock fueled dirge “The Ballad of the Show” with its big brass horn and irresistible accordion, which recall The Decemberists and Beirut.
With Odd Skies, Elephant Weather has made a fun piano pop album. However the stripped down songs sound after a few listens, underdone, and simply don’t stand up as well as the songs on which Couchee goes for it with bigger melodies and more instrumentation. I am well aware of the great solace one finds in solo artistic endeavors, though I can’t help thinking of what Elephant Weather could achieve with a few extra players.
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