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In my past reviews of Nashville by-way-of NYC songstress Elliott’s releases, going back to her 2007 self-titled debut mini-LP (as Danielle Elliott; she’s gone by Dani ever since), I’ve focused on emphasizing her delectable, throwback vocal style. On her also-eponymous 2013 EP, for example, I compared her to a “jazz singer from a bygone era,” with a “warm, buttery purr that feels vintage and stylish.” (I’m not the only one who noticed: Miley Cyrus, M.I.A., The Roots, Amos Lee, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, and White Prism all procured Elliott’s potent pipes for their tours.) So it’s no surprise that those same choral qualities still enthrall on this new five-songer, proficiently produced by her husband Matt Wigton. But Elliott introduces a new wrinkle on The Best, by backing her silky, sinuous singing with warm electropop, ambient, and downtempo music, rather than the contemporary pop, R&B, and jazz instrumentation she preferred on previous records. She’s no amateurish, green-behind-the-ears knob-twiddler, either. On the seductive opening title track, the skittish, pulsating and bubbling sounds she concocts are as ear-tickling and entrancing as any downtempo dilettante could dream up.
On the EP’s standout “Sinner,” Elliott’s mellifluous, Mae West-tinted croon is accompanied by a twinkling piano and looped keyboards that are reverberating and dreamlike. Her delicate phrasing is so sumptuous on it, it’d be easy to overlook her incensed lyrics, as she coolly confronts a crafty suitor about his cheating conduct (the song’s accompanying video finds Elliott enacting her revenge; let’s just say it’ll make you think twice about attending one of her dinner parties!). “Talking To the Walls” and “All We Need” find her respectively pining for and impatient with her partner, each blending deep-throbbing house beats with teasing static tones. Finally, on the submerged “I’ll Be Waiting,” she pleads for her lover like a shadowy spirit beckoning from a centuries-old sunken ship. If, as I opined in my review of her last EP, “the music style she favors might be passé,” then Elliott puts those notions to rest on this sonically progressive-sounding platter.
Given Elliott’s vivacious voice and songwriting skills, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood took notice: her newest single “Black Heart” is featured in the trailer of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 home video release. Longtime followers might be flabbergasted: “Black” is by far her heftiest, most walloping song yet, a Lady Gaga-meets-Lorde behemoth with thumping, industrial-strength beats and scowling, menacing vocals, epitomizing the movie’s post-apocalyptic milieu. But if any new fans reeled in by the single’s tie-in are likewise drawn to Elliott’s prettier past work, that would be “the best part” of such well-deserved exposure. (www.danielliott.com)
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