Husband/wife duo Justin and Tasha Golden are Ellery. Their first full-length debut, Lying Awake, finds them lyrically and musically in that dreamy spectrum between fully awake and sweetly drowsing, making for a listen to folk-derived pop music for grownups.
Grown out of previous project Diving the Plunder, Ellery is the couple's latest incarnation and the Cincinnati duo stepped out in 2005 with the EP Make Your Troubles Mine, essentially the body of Lying Awake. With a warm critical and fan reception, the Goldens took up with Virt Records and hit the studio to add the arms and legs to a full length, increasing the EP by half.
Each well-crafted song is not only performed but written by the pair, evoking an early generation pairing the likes of Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, most particularly on opener and first AAA single, "Anna." Here (the song from which their EP's title came) they traverse well into Mann territory in the vein of "Bachelor No. 2." Piano, drums, and gently chiming guitar build a nest from which (Ellery's not-so-secret super weapon) Tasha's Golden egg of a voice observes, narrates, and finally unfurls its wings in all its soft feathery sweetness.
While Ellery's musical themes of clever yet tastefully tuneful wed themselves to poetic narrative--not linear, but solidly story-driven lyrics—the warmth, sincerity, and musicality of the tale is never marred by fancy-pants cleverness or in-jokes. Not unlike Ohio's better known Over The Rhine, Ellery comes across as endearingly earnest, from the looped vocals on the infectiously confessional chorus "Be Like This" to the unpretentious musical build of "The Simple Things."
The band's true beating heart is perhaps best contained on the piano-driven titular ballad "It's Alright," which closes out the record with the refreshingly affirmative answer to fear: "We're most of us stories we're scared to explain… A song we can sing while we're lying awake." • Paige La Grone Babcock