One might say that the “four elements/earth-wind-fire-and-water” route is overdone, especially for a four-song EP, but young Los Angeles native Chandler Juliet manages to make it new and interesting for her Elements, a vague format for her work rather than a cheap gimmick. This would be impossible without her unpretentiously poetic lyrics, containing all the quiet prettiness of a fairy tale and the undercurrent of darkness such a comparison entails.
‘Burning Sage’ is the hip hoppiest piece on this EP, to the point that it throws you for a bit of a loop when she begins to sing. It’s a trippy song about spacing out, a meditation on mental anguish. The lyrics are pretty and vague; that is, they are artistically mature, in the style of those of good chamber pop or R&B, and her own backing vocals are gentle and beautiful. I find this the strongest track.
Meanwhile, ‘Gravitational’ is a much weaker piece, largely due to the lyrics’ somewhat overused metaphors of planets’ gravitational pull in place of obsessive lust or love. However, the gorgeous, percussive, and almost jazzy instrumentation, all clicks and clacks, redeems this, along with the following haunting, heartbreaking line from Juliet: “Infinitely, I surrender.” It’s also incredibly catchy, which goes to show the quality of this EP, if the weakest song is also the catchiest.
‘Tidal Wave’ yanks out the good, old acoustic guitar and, correspondingly, her voice becomes folk-like, very thin and almost sharp, like an oboe, to sing about being chosen by the ocean. The metaphor may be adolescent, but the emotion is very real and palpable, simultaneously youthful and mature. Interestingly, despite the (granted, comparatively minimal) electronic instrumentation, it sounds like an acoustic cover of a heavily-produced electronic piece.
‘Hide and Seek’ displays her strongest vocal-work: her voice largely remains steadily in her lower range, which appears to be her tessitura. The main vocals are structured almost like a harmony part, while the backing vocals get to do more conventionally interesting things. Despite her adeptness with higher notes, such notes on this track occasionally sound shrill in contrast to the main line. Furthermore, the plain, simple lyrics talk of growing up and losing innocence; a quiet, electronic folksiness that shows you don’t need purply language or a string quartet to be beautiful: “The devil on my shoulder told me there’d be a day where I might suffocate.”
Despite its creation of something pretty within darkness, within Juliet’s own pain, this is far from gothic and is instead very high quality pop music. The instrumentation throughout is very simple, but effective. Juliet’s vocals and lyrics are the focus, and everything else, the clicks and clacks of a drum machine and the occasional strumming of a guitar, are merely adornment to her poetry. That said, she’s at her best when not forcing metaphors, but instead letting her obviously considerable poetic ability do its own thing. Overall, Elements is a delightful debut EP.
The EP, Elements is out now – available to purchase on iTunes here.