Reviews of Bird

CD Dave Clarke–Scene Magazine (London, Ontario).
Thursday Oct 28th, 2004

Some CDs are more personal than others. And judging from the hand-assembled and decorated packaging (the coffee filter CD holder would make McGuyver proud) and the willingness to share these works in progress, Toronto singer-songwriter Karyn Ellis’ six-song CD is one of them. Ellis’ voice ranges from sultry sexy on Summer Heatwave to downright quirky on Bird, which reminded me a bit of The McGarrigles. there is some fine tuning to be done, but remembering that these are demos put together as a memento for her live performances, it was nice to get a personal peek into Ellis’s creative process.

Amy Lotsberg–
Monday April 12th, 2004

The first track, is quite dirgey about lazy summer days. It really gives the feeling that you’re sitting somewhere down south on a porch with lemonade watching the day go by.

“Bird” is a nice little ditty with a hop in it’s step.

“Cool Wooden Floor” has a lot in common with Sarah Harmer’s fabulous, “You Were Here” recording.

I’m sad this CD is only 6 songs. I would love to hear more from Karyn Ellis. She’s a unique, interesting artist.

A note about the packaging: (because if you’ve read my reviews you know I like to add my two cents). The CD case is made from a cardboard box and art tape. The coffee cup on the front is painted (stamped?) on, as is the info on the back. The inside features a small booklet with a photo and lyrics and the CD is held into the case with what looks like a coffee filter.

This is so artistic and unique that I might just keep it on permanent display in my office (since it won’t fit into the CD case anyway). It really proves the creativity of the artist (as if the music doesn’t enough, but you know what I mean). Very nice.

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Jennifer Layton,
Sunday May 2nd, 2004

The limited-run packaging of this CD is not only a triumph of indie artist creativity but also a perfect illustration of what’s inside. The jewel case is actually cut from corrugated cardboard with a simple, hand-painted image of a coffee cup on the cover. On the back, a paintbrush-swirled condensation ring from the bottom of the cup. The sleeve that holds the CD is a coffee filter.

The only missing touch is the autograph I hope to get when I finally see Karyn Ellis perform live someday.

Like the packaging, the music is beautiful in what sounds like such simple arrangements, but when you take a closer look, there’s magic in all the intricate details. Even on acoustic guitar and vocal tracks, careful attention is paid to the production, making the vibe so intimate that I can hear every breath, every touch of tongue on teeth. The exaggerated drawl of Ellis’ words adds to the rustic, playful feel – in the title track, “birdie” becomes “bird-aye,” and it’s perched up in a “birch traye.”

In fact, I’ve never heard someone sound so childlike and so sensual at the same time. Ellis purrs in the opening track, “Summer Heatwave,” adding rising steam to the languid, laid-back tempo:

All I’m wearing is my tank top
and my underwear
I’m stewing in summer juices
I’m basking in my spicy summer smell
It’s a hot one …

The music itself stretches out on a lawn chair, barely dressed. My computer screen almost fogged up.

The songwriting carries through to a strong finish. No throwaways, no fillers, no sign of running on creative empty. “Cool Wooden Floor” is one of the best songs about a hangover I’ve heard in a while. (Unable to stand, she writes an almost passionate love song to the supportive wooden panels.) “Autumn” and “Kariana” are sweetly sad, with one comparing losing a love to the falling of leaves, and the other trying to let go of a soul that has already moved on. Ellis can envelop you in the warmth of that voice and break your heart at the same time.

Even though Ellis has probably run out of the limited-edition pressing, I still strongly recommend checking it out. She could seal the disc in Saran Wrap and still make something magical out of it.

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Shael Risman,
Friday July 16th, 2004

A beautifully organic piece of work from this Kingston, Ontario native delivers dig-your-heels-in rootsy pop peppered with delightfully quirky lyrics. Ellis’s flexible vocal style runs the gamut on this 6-song EP, fluttering playfully on the countrified BIRD, then simmering so seductively on SUMMER HEATWAVE that your brow sweats and your toes curl. Truth be told, the minute she yelps “Coffee is love!” she had me sold.

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