Album Review: Elvis Depressedly—’Depressedelica’
Posted: by The Editor
The new Elvis Depressedly album is one we might have never heard. Mathew Lee Cothran’s seventh full-length under this moniker (he also records under his own name and as Coma Cinema) was surprise-released on April 10, but Depressedelica was originally slated to come out in Fall 2019. However, amidst personal struggles with addiction and mental health–subjects he’s sung openly about for years–and a semi-public Twitter scandal, Cothran and his label decided to shelve the record so that he could go into recovery and step out of the public eye. Now, the North Carolina musician has finished his treatment and has decided to set the record free, marking the first Elvis Depressedly release since 2015. Although Depressedelica was written before entering recovery, the record is noticeably prescient in that it directly confronts the hardships he sought to overcome in his time away from music, a career he’s carried out for over a decade.
Before its full release, the only taste fans got was the song “Jane, Don’t You Know Me?”; a simple, unassuming tune riddled with mea culpas. Through slinky auto-tune and a subtly powerful hook, Cothran asks for penance from someone presumably pushed away by his struggles: “I hope you will forgive me / The way that we forgive our bad dreams.” Backdropped by a metronomic drum pattern and synths that feel like the first peek of sunrise, it’s a song that feels like a perfect first step to the journey described in the album’s lyrics
On the album’s opening track, “Who Can Be Loved in This World?”, Cothran sounds cautiously optimistic, singing more openly about love than he has in past work. “It makes me feel like I am free / To fall into you easily and you can fall right into me.” He sounds free, and the song feels like drawing in a deep breath and letting it out slowly. The topic of love comes back again at the album’s close. “New Love in the Summertime” uses a country-tinged melody to wax poetic about relationships and how the passing of time drives a wedge in them. By its end, though, Cothran is confident that his love will last as long as he does, giving his lover “one more laugh about the days before.”
The song “Chariot” feels like the place where recurring themes of the record break through the most, which is underscored by its reprisal in the album’s back half. Here, Cothran sings through a suffocating amount of vocal effects about the dubious trappings of notoriety. “The chariot swung too low” he repeats at the beginning of each verse, followed by a description of some form of tragedy. One of these finds him dealing with “the Antichrist’s publicist” who tells him his songs will “make him famous.” Cothran’s social media followers know that he’s long been candid about his grievances with the exploitative side of independent music, and here he’s bringing those careerist critiques into his actual songwriting.
One of the album’s most interesting moments comes on “Can You Hear My Guitar Rotting?”, which effectively answers the titular question. On this track, Cothran is particularly explicit about his substance abuse issues, opening with the lyric, “I have a problem”, and later murmuring about getting drunk in secret. If you pay close attention, you notice the clean acoustic guitar and piano behind Cothran’s vocals go through some changes. As the song progresses, they devolve, splintering away to be replaced by much darker sounds. By the time the song comes to a close the only sounds left are a distorted, angelic vocal track and a drum pattern that sounds as though it’s being played backward. The song feels like we’re being shown just how much command Cothran has over the kind of music he makes, even if control didn’t come easily in other aspects of his life.
The things Cothran is forward about on Depressedelica are by no means easy to talk about, nor should it be taken for granted that he has even decided to share them at all—let alone after starting to better his own life. This album, while some of the best work he has ever put forth, is especially unique because we were never entitled to it, making it all the more special to know that it’s arrived on Cothran’s own terms.
Eric Bennett | @seething_coast
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