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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Ill Ease
Live At the Holiday Sin

Rating: 6/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Along with Live At the Holiday Sin, Smilex sent me a number of interviews with Elizabeth Sharp, the woman behind the one-person band, Ill Ease. Not one was able to hold my attention for more than a few paragraphs, but as I skimmed, one thing became frighteningly clear. Elizabeth Sharp is an extremely eccentric woman. That's putting it nicely, though. I'd say it would be more accurate to say she is completely insane.

In each interview, no matter what questions are asked, Sharp must say something about why she makes music somewhere as an answer to one of the first few questions. The interviewer might ask her, "What is your favorite color?" and Sharp will say, "Well, I have a neurological disorder where when I play music it sends endorphins to my brain, making me feel incredible pleasure." Okay… At another point, when the interviewer, a man by the name of Pete Nolan, mentioned Sharp's songs reminded him of carnival rides, she replied with, "I never go to those proto-fascist amusement parks like Disney World because that's where they stick the pro-government chips in your brain." She's a bit strange. Enough said.

This marked insanity infiltrates itself in Live At the Holiday Sin as well. Her voice has that crazy-lady feel to it, a strange, almost paranoid bird-lady feel. It sounds really calm no matter what the case, so much so that you can almost picture Sharp in the old hotel she recorded the album in, sitting in a dark corner, arms pressing her knees to her chest, repeating her vocals- lyrics about how awful society is- over and over again. When her voice begins to give more emotion, more of a screaming quality to it, I see her lying in the fetal position, kicking her legs all over the place. The way the guitar repeats the same one sound over and over again and this xylophone repeats the same couple of notes every once in a while adds to the insanity of it all. Her music makes you want to notice one aspect over the other- a piano will join the mix randomly, like in the fifth song, dominating for just a few seconds before something else comes into focus for its time to shine. Sharp's voice will be mumbling something hardly decipherable while the percussion will be in the spotlight. It almost reminds me of those dances where lots of people will be dancing at the same time in a circle but every once in a while a person will go in the middle. The person is in the spotlight yet the others are dancing, resulting in quite the chaotic array of sound and movement.

Live At the Holiday Sin almost seems to be a look into the brain of someone whose mind functions a bit, nay - a lot - off-kilter. It makes for quite an interesting listen, considering Sharp is an accomplished bassist (she plays for New York City band Skinner Pilot) and is also widely known for her skill as a percussionist (she used to play for the Massachusetts band New Radiant Storm King). In this solo effort she plays each of the instruments used, ranging for the afore-mentioned bass and a number of percussion instruments to a xylophone, broken tambourine, etc. So we've gathered she's multi-instrumental, insane, and obviously talented, but the album itself?

Though there is apparently a lot of hype surrounding Ill Ease, I cannot give Live At the Holiday Sin an enormous amount of praise. I give Elizabeth Sharp credit for the way she gets across that spazzy feeling of insanity in her works and the complete originality with which she does, but the album does not hold my attention as much I had hoped. It lacks that something, that little I-don't-know-what that would make it a great album. Live At the Holiday Sin is missing something, but I can't figure out what.

Reviewed by Jeanette Samyn
A contributing writer for LAS and a former music director WBAR at Barnard College.

See other reviews by Jeanette Samyn



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