Album Review: Scott Royle’s Tennis Elbow

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Back and forth, year to year, Scott’s been a dusty gem of St. John’s whenever he’s situated himself within the city. With a couple of releases already under his belt, he’s taken a new approach with his latest endeavour, Tennis Elbow, enlisting a regiment of St. John’s talent to deliver his most detailed and weighty package yet.

These are unique songs, but Scott and his band, The Nightshift Nurses, open them up with the help of this long list of talented pals. This city is a stocked toolbox when it comes to finding the right sized ratchet — anything you need is there as long as you dig through it all. The added love touches every little inch; whether it’s boisterous horns or subtle violin runs, Scott’s songs are brought to life in a convincing and beautiful way.

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Everything is kept in check through Scott’s minimalistic words and staunch voice. He never goes on verbose rants, instead drawing out the sentiment of every last little syllable to the point where they become the song’s hooks. It’s an interesting way of translating bare, stripped words into melody. He’s a good songwriter, matching cadence with emotional weight to serve some grander goal.

Tennis Elbow doesn’t immediately flaunt its depth. You’ve got to start somewhere though, and the opener, “Violent Dreams,” sure is a nice segue into the proceeding nine songs. It only gives a little taste of what’s hidden within. This is, in part, a gritty rock record. But it’s also lot more than that. The textures of “There is a Darkness” exemplify this — they help to bring the record down a different path, one that’s long and winding, but scenic and engaging. This is followed up by the bossa nova inspired “Sailor’s Mouth,” which showcases Scott’s witty, playful lyrical style while still taking full advantage of the palate of skills offered by the album’s guests.

If you want to sum up the album, check out the closer “Mending Feynman’s Broken Heart.” It’s one of those slow-burning acoustic jams with obtuse lyrics and beautiful imagery that resonates emotionally and resolves into a hanging melancholic note with huge organs, huge horns, and huge singalongs in tow.

It’s a good listen in a year of good listens. There’s character and texture and love in every song. Scott’s strong songwriting gives it a step up from the rest of the pack. Let it grow on you. It’s not disjointed, but it’s also not a paint by numbers rock record. Live in its details, reside between the words. Hang on the organs and the horns and the strings. Let it settle.

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Brad Pretty

Brad Pretty dresses like an old man.

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