Ellen Krauss is just 20 years old, but you wouldn’t know it. The Swedish self-taught artist spent her youth writing songs in the comfort of her bedroom, using her charisma to challenge societal norms and amplify the queer experience.
With her brutally honest lyrics and sophisticated vocals, the singer-songwriter has crafted an emotional debut that will hit home for many.
Listening to Pearl felt like coming home. Krauss sings openly about queer love, namely between women, which resonated deeply with me as a queer woman. She follows in the footsteps of Girl in Red and King Princess, who she cites as influences, whilst maintaining charming originality.
The album utilises acoustic instrumentation, with quirky guitar chord progressions and riffs, with Krauss’ unique vocal tone soaring alongside layers of low key acoustics, allowing her voice to be spotlighted.
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Ellen opens the album on a sultry note with ‘Bali’, which is a beachy track about a steamy date, as professed by Krauss herself. A chilled backbeat and soft strings in the background coupled with lyrics such as ‘If looks could kill then I’ve died a couple times’, expresses the potential intensity of dating when you click with someone.
‘No talk’ is equally as candid and discusses the navigation of sexual desire. A chilled, groovy bassline drives this track, with Ellen’s vocal range becoming heightened in the chorus and emphasising the subtle urgency expressed in this song. ‘Often’ toys with similar themes, using humorously to-the-point lyrics to express hidden queer desire:
‘Does he make you come? […] I don’t mind the talking but looking at you won’t ever be enough’.
The song makes use of a contagious acoustic guitar riff and soft drums, maintaining the chilled vibe of the album.
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Krauss then turns to the tearjerker, ‘Silver Spoon’. The song plays like a ballad, with little more than an acoustic guitar and emotional strings accompanying emotional vocals which oscillate between Krauss’ highs and lows. Ellen’s storytelling gifts us with this track about loving someone but knowing that it isn’t working out.
‘New York’, one of my personal favourites, is a laid back, playful bop about going after the person you like; the chorus’ lyrics, ‘I never looked so fun / Baby, you know it, by tonight you’ll be mine’, hold enough confidence and attitude to make your heart fuzzy. Exploiting her guitar skills, Krauss layers in a relaxed riff to create the perfect minimalist track.
The following two tracks, ‘The Wedding’ and ‘The One I Love’ are touching and emotionally charged. The former explores the growth involved in love and the unique journey between two loved ones: ‘You make me better, look who I’ve become’. Set down in Ellen’s angelic, soft vocals, it is impossible for this song not to move you.
The latter is equally as heartwarming; ‘The One I Love’ is one of Krauss’ most anticipated songs on Pearl. Understandably so, as this track is dedicated to LGBTQ+ acceptance. The opening verse is testament to this: ‘May I sing about the one I love / Without people not approving of? / Mother, I love her so / ‘Cause she makes everything let go’. Seamlessly sung against a backdrop of guitar, quiet synth drones and a soft pulse, this track especially hits home and will undoubtedly become a true hallmark amongst queer musicians.
The last three tracks are angst fuelled tracks of feeling. Both ‘Criminal To Love’ and ‘On The Bus’ express the pain of unrequited love and loving someone who is bad for you. Ellen’s trademark acoustic sound is prevalent as ever across both tracks, with ‘On The Bus’ taking on a folky tone and musicality.
‘Let Me Have it’ is a quietly angry and somewhat harrowing final track, its confrontational lyrics sealing the end of the album: ‘Well if you got something to say, go say it to my face / don’t try to hide it’. The song is moderately paced with haunting harmonies in the chorus, creating a notable atmospheric shift from the early stages of the album.
Ellen Krauss is undoubtedly one of the best artists I have discovered so far this year. Pearl is a sublime journey into the depths of love, regardless of gender, making a strikingly memorable and original debut album.
I have no doubts that Krauss will continue to rise and become increasingly popular amongst the LGBTQ+ community in particular. I feel as if I have stumbled upon a rare gem, and the stunning debut leaves me excited for what will come next.
Ellen Krauss’ Pearl was released on July 17th and is now available to stream below: