Jacques Ellis – Whatever You’ve Brought | Yearning
Dutch singer-songwriter Jacques Ellis’ (formerly known as David van den Berg) discography witnesses some activity with the release of his debut album — Whatever You’ve Brought.
In a way, Ellis’ album fills all the characteristics to be posited as a concept album — the work features his coming of age and to terms with the demise of his mother early in his life. The album is an emotional memorialization of the internal turbulence and uncertainty that it leaves on the mind of an impressionable young boy, and finally, fulling realizing the extent of his loneliness and strength that such events leave in his life. Constituent of twelve well-produced tracks, the album has a comfortable runtime of just over half an hour. It features some of Ellis’ earlier solo tracks, such as — Swimming, Before I See, Poetry & Song and Landing.
The album’s lead-off begins with Swimming — a track characterised through very indie-folksy guitar arpeggios that reverberate across the track, with a very naked and heartfelt balladic letter by Ellis to his mother. He reminisces of the years without her, and how she has missed young additions to the family. Before I See and Winter’s Thorn are lyrical continuations of the same stream of consciousness, with Ellis engaging in a more introspective theme inwards as he continues his musical dialogue. In the latter track, Ellis ponders about the idea of a home and what it truly means — representing the lack of belongingness one must feel after a loss.
Sight is a slower track with a unique swing; Ellis treats this track as a mode of communication between persons he misses, however one-sided that may be, and how his life continues to be affected by their absence. Move — a relatively shorter track —brings back the arpeggio melodica from the earlier tracks with a similar composition. The folksy inclinations of the album show themselves fullest in I Fear To Be In Love, replete with the meditative conversational lyricism. Receive is arguably the best-produced track in the album — a brutally honest and emotionally unclothed number about Ellis’ own fears and anxieties. Ellis’ acoustic prowess shines through in this track, with the guitar not just serving as the background instrumentation but also offering its own meaning to the lyrics; if the guitar could speak, the lyrics would sound so.
Clarity is an ode to the people one loves, and our request to be there in our lives through adversity. Landing brings back the swing in Sight and features the sound of a grand piano collaborative with the acoustic. The track creates a fuller soundscape with its multi-instrumental composition which offers the additional emotional heightening while listening to it. Paper Thin is one of the favourites off the album, with the lyrics proving it so. If the album were to be defined by one track, Paper Thin would be it. Its Beatlesque composition strung together in a beautiful arpeggio-strum ratio contains the lyrics to the title of the album.
Swimming #2 and Poetry & Song, correctly placed in the album, features the events in the Ellis’ family following his mother’s absence — Ellis sings about the memories of his mother held alive through photobooks and postcards, and the world that appears much more menacing and threatening without her comfort. The conversation between mother and son draws to a close, with life to go on and for music to remain playing.