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I first became acquainted with then New Yorker, now Nashville-based Elliott on her vivacious 2007 self-titled debut mini-LP, back when she went by Danielle. The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music alum hasn’t released much since, other than 2010’s Take it Back EP and a few singles. However, she’s been continually perfecting her craft, and it pays dividends on this sumptuous, beautifully produced five-songer. There’s less of a pronounced jazz influence here than on the debut (there are no horns, for starters), with the focus on smooth, soulful contemporary pop and R&B. But Elliott’s vocal style still evokes a jazz singer from a bygone era, in the way she playfully wraps her voice around syllables, and in her clear, supple phrasing. She has a warm, buttery purr that feels vintage and stylish.
The EP is built around two delectable, previously released singles. On the irresistible, ‘70s disco-funky “Make Me Love You,” a love-struck Elliott gleefully gushes about a fast-moving relationship (“Baby, you must have some damn long sleeves/’Cause you’re pulling tricks out like some Houdini,” she sassily observes in the opening verse). Meanwhile, the slinky, glistening “Can’t Make Up My Mind” finds her in a more tentative, confused mood (“So I missed one bullet, but I know there’s a clip comin’ for me soon,” she anxiously predicts).
The three new tunes are of equally high quality. Elliott’s amorous croon is light and airy on the dreamy, billowy “Never Knew,” while the closing “Lockdown” finds her grappling with a constraining romance over bassist Jesse Singer’s and drummer Adam Jackson’s hard, nasty groove. The EP is rounded out by the show-stopping standout “Thunder,” a luxurious, gorgeously sung piano ballad. It’s reinforced by Jackson’s throbbing, ominous drumbeat, portending an oncoming storm, and complemented by soothing backing vocals. Though the music style she favors might be passé, Elliott makes it seem thoroughly vibrant and modern.
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