Album in the Crosshairs — Annabel (lee): I Came Across a Dreamer; Youngbloods, 2018

annabel lee, I came across a dreamer, album

Three dreams, guided by a polaris of better times, but for the most part pursued by somber realities while awash with indulgent compositions, vocals and lyrics.

Count Richard Ellis and Sheila Brown Ellis of the group Annabel (lee) among the shortlist of creatives who can solidly deliver on such an angular approach to storytelling. Their new three-song EP release serves as solid evidence of their capabilities. The work of this duo is so stunning that their individual contributions provide a strong aural framing for each other. A collaboration of true equals. My only (minor) complaint is that they’ve yet again teased us with a resonating set of songs and not the full-length album their fans want.

Circling the stars …

—Annabel (lee)

In the spirit of Psychedelic Soul, Funk and Jazz artists decades prior who weaved Afrofuturism metaphors into story quilts of exodus to free spaces, the modal ”Circles” utilizes a Jazz club as your interstellar transportation — saturated with Sunday morning spirituality — and finished with splashes of sci-fi electrons. The musical foundation established by Richard engages you with a rework of a Novo Tempo (Japan) riff of bass and piano, while deftly using Jake Telford’s sax work to fill in spaces. Ellis’ once again displays an incredibly versatile vocal range and prose-styled lyrics to complete the story of a dreamer’s quest for freedom.

Wish I had the power
To control these fragile hours …

—Annabel (lee)

Nocturnal dreams enjoy visions of change in the same way traveling the cosmos serves as a device to explore new states of living — except the former acknowledges its limited life expectancy, victim of the sun’s ironically cruel rapier. “Glow” offers additional Jazz flavor, and a deep listen will reward you with Annabel (lee)’s signature Dark Pop and Folk patterns. The lyrics — I used a Langston Hughes poem to help establish my personal reference point — leave behind phased emotions of hope and dread, combined with a contemporary Lounge music feel. This will be the second time in just over a year where I had Nick Drake on my mind after listening to someone else’s song.

The tune never ends
As long as, in the sky
You catch a sight of the wings
And something flying …

—Annabel (lee)

Given how the first two tracks can get all up in your ambivalent feelings as you nod your head the entire time, “Lovers’ Wings” offers a highly-visible counterpoint. The breezy Bossa Nova construction helps to complete the imagery of two lovers’ take on paradise.

Some of you know about greatest compliment I can give to a release: you will continue to enjoy it years later after purchase. I Came Across A Dreamer is in that category. While the dreams shared are engaging, don’t miss the stories within the songs the group doesn’t tell — a change in your channel frequency may be required for that.

The EP is available now at Youngbloods, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify, and many other outlets. And here’s more good news — a full-length album is slated for release next year.

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