Thursday, 27 June 2013

'Scarlet Girl EP' by Elena Dana - A review

Elena Dana, born and raised in the Ukraine but now as firm a pillar of the UK acoustic scene as anyone noteworthy, blends traditional Russian folk music with the stylised, New York 'Anti-Folk' movement of recent years.
Her four-track EP Scarlet Girl is, despite its brief runtime, an expertly compiled spectrum of her talents, influences and styles.  While these songs really demand to be heard live (Dana's stage presence is impeccable and her mix of originals and haunting, Russian ballads is always an atmospheric and special experience to behold), this offering does plenty of justice to them.
Aesthetically, title track Scarlet Girl is the EP's biggest triumph, and is also the most indicative of Dana's Russian influences; the inclusion of a number of percussion instruments and background vocals compliment the brooding, gypsy-folk guitar playing and lend something of a singalong quality to the beautifully simplistic lyrics.  Dana's ability to create a memorable, infectious chorus without words is on full display here.
Parallel Lives is whimsical, romantic and bouncy.  With lyrical content aping a stream of consciousness - the protagonist internally wonders how things would have been with a would-be romantic partner had she acted sooner upon their paths crossing - the piece begins as a lingering, heartfelt love song but soon detours into one of Dana's trademark toe-tapping, alt-pop verses.  She takes the reins of her Anti-Folk roots and runs them effortlessly into her unique Eastern style, creating something extremely memorable before blindsiding the listener with a moving, powerfully-delivered chorus.
The sunny, spritely It's Not About the Bike has echoes of Regina Spektor; Elena Dana paints the scenario described, singing 'Brum Brum Brum' amidst fond recollections of early childhood and learning to ride a bicycle for the first time.  The fresh, summery inflection to the song would raise a smile through any mood and it provides the heights of this EP's amicability.
However, it is My Life With You that is the runaway highlight of Scarlet Girl.  A bittersweet, melancholy and haunting celebration of life, dreams and beloved pets, My Life With You is Elena Dana's Magnum Opus.  The emotionally-charged lyrics are moving beyond compare, the persistent minor key of the guitar work is soul-penetrating and the whole product is beautifully iced by the EP's reverberated production values - more of a triumph here than on any other track.  The song really has to be heard to be believed.

Scarlet Girl is warm, likeable and devoid of pessimism even in its most melancholy moments.  It is a postcard to love, life and fond memories that is surpassed only by the incredible live performances of its scribe.

Elena Dana performs regularly in and around London.
Scarlet Girl and other works can be heard on her SoundCloud page.

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