Artist Interview / EP Review: Elliott Green – ‘Kintsugi’

Posted: by The Editor


Of course I know that it rains in Seattle. What I didn’t know until I visited the city for the first time is how it rains in Seattle.

The city’s rain comes subtly, not in a downpour.

The moisture in the air seeps into your clothes, forming into beads on the nape of your neck without a noise. The precipice of precipitation is more real than the actual thing. The whole city has an omnipresent mist like nothing else I’ve ever felt, and it creeps into most of Seattle’s best musical exports — David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Carrie Brownstein, Chris Cornell.

You can hear it in the abstract brilliance of DIY indie rocker Elliott Green, a born-and-raised Seattleite who released one of last year’s best records with her sophomore album Everything I Lack. The looming grayness hangs over Green’s newest trio of songs, too — “Kintsugi,” “The Vanishing Act” and “Blackout,” out today on all streaming services. Green said she sees this three-pack EP as a sort of segue between the sparse indie rock of “Everything I Lack” and her in-progress next LP, which the songwriter says will venture into more full-band experimental territory.

The EP shares its name — Kintsugi — with a form of Japanese art where a vase or bowl is shattered and then reconstructed with golden adhesive. In a practical sense, kintsugi is a temporary fix, but it also serves as a powerful statement: so-called flaws can be worn as a badge of honor. On these new tracks, Green traces those lines. She studies herself and her surroundings with Ivy League precision, finding moments of solace in the splintering. Take the title track, where Green’s precise guitar plucks seem to claw their way out of a jagged hole. Atmospheric accents cloud the corners of the instrumentation while the song poses more questions than answers.

There are those clouds again. They’re lurking, as Green’s aluminum vocal timbre cuts through the center of the song’s sweet keys.

The cracks are getting clearer. The Seattle sky is opening up.

And it’s funny we pretend that there’s something to learn in any of this,” she quivers on the song’s second verse. “Want so badly to believe that it hurts for a reason but I’ll never see.”

Then there’s “Blackout,” a song that would’ve easily fit right in on the Everything I Lack tracklist, if even just for the fact that — like that record’s “Goodness” and “Boxer” — its titular lyric is unforgettable. Since first hearing these songs a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to shake the sheer emotional gore of it: “Blackout, a poison mouth / Covered in blood trying to calm me down.” Conjuring that visceral imagery is something that’s apparently second nature for Green. While her music has certainly attracted surface-level comparisons to indie singer-songwriter acts like Julien Baker or Soccer Mommy — the “sad boygenius core thing,” Green calls it with a laugh — that doesn’t quite paint the full picture.

Green said she didn’t go to her first indie rock show until she was 18. She grew up going to punk and hardcore shows instead, and still can be found on heavier bills in the Pacific Northwest DIY scene. It seems impossible to capture Green as a musician without that background in mind. “There’s certainly a throughline with hardcore and punk rock and the kind of music I’m making in how viscerally raw it is,” Green said. “It’s really important to not just listen to music within the genre you make as a musician. It lends itself to more interesting songwriting.” To be pigeonholed into one sound or scene is one of the wicked side effects of social media-driven compartmentalization. It’s the easy way out, giving everything a “core” or point of reference. But in that, you lose some of the subtext.

Green said comparison is a double-edged sword. On one hand, she’s charmed by Bridgers and Baker comparisons online. But she resists the oversimplification of terms like “sad girl music” that were thrown around at Everything I Lack, a record with moments of both vitriol and victory, too. “It can be a little bit stifling or frustrating to not feel like you’re being seen as an individual, you know?” she said.

On “The Vanishing Act,” Green’s hardcore roots are apparent, despite the song’s elegance. The guitars are crisp. You can hear the exact moment of connection between her fingertips and the strings. But the juxtaposition of Green’s instrumental warmth and violent existentialism is front and center, confirming what was apparent on Everything I Lack: balancing gentleness and wrath is Green’s superpower. She can turn a self-critical song into a gloveless cage fight. But there’s no octagon. No jeering bloodlust. Instead, her brawls unfold in a sonic coliseum of lavender. Like her hometown, Green’s songs are equal parts lightning and lushness. They’re also remarkably honest.

“All of my songs are largely autobiographical,” Green said. “A collection of songs kind of soundtrack an era of my life and to me represent the year since Everything I Lack.” Kintsugi is also something of a full circle moment for Green. All three songs were mastered by Chris Walla, former guitarist for Seattle-born indie icons Death Cab For Cutie. Green called the band “hometown heroes,” noting that both Transatlanticism and Plans had an impact on her songwriting style. Really, it was only a matter of time until Walla and Green collaborated. Green said she remembers her dad telling stories of working at a coffee shop and serving drinks to Death Cab members between their Plans studio sessions. And online, Walla is very outwardly plugged in on what’s next in DIY rock, always singing the praises of rising acts.

Last year, Green replied to one of his “Chris Walla kind of tweets” with a link to her music (a form of self-promotion the singer said she’s had to grow more comfortable with in the last few years). A bit later, she got a donation notification from Bandcamp with Walla’s name on it. By the end of 2023, she and songwriter Colleen Dow (of Thank You, I’m Sorry and mealworm) visited Walla at his Fremont recording studio.

“We just kind of hung out for a couple of hours and shot the shit and talked about music,” Green said. “There’s the saying of, like, ‘don’t meet your heroes,’ and stories of people’s musical heroes being jerks, but Chris is such a nice, genuine guy.” For an artist with such a knack for abstracts, Green also knows how to strike sharply with more straightforward lines. As I revisit Kintsugi, I can’t stop going back to one lyric in particular on the title track:  Is there beauty in the pain?” Green asks, her voice pleading.

On its face, it’s probably the EP’s most obvious moment of optimism, especially in contrast with the rest of the song’s emotional haymakers. And as it echoes in my head, I’m once again startled by Green’s talent. We all feel the mist on our shoulders, but it takes a different kind of vision to look through the Pacific fog and see the seams where sunlight shines through. Green is not only perceptive enough to find these fractures — she wears them like medallions.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Kintsugi is out now on all streaming platforms.

Gannon Hanevold | @GannonHanevold

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