In a photography class I took some years ago, I learned that a satisfying black-and-white photograph is very likely to include the full range of the black-to-white spectrum, from the blackest black to the whitest white but also including many different in-between grays. I suspect, lacking of course any empirical evidence, that something similar is involved with music. For me, anyway, melodies that manage to hit the top and the bottom of the octave, while also employing most of the in-between notes, feel richer and often more meaningful to me than stingy tunes that stay within a more constrained range of notes.
“Lines” offers a sense of the richness about to unfold before, even, its full-spectrum melody begins, in a flowing introduction that features a leisurely but nimble progression of eight chords. This song is clearly going places. Ryan Groff has a crooner’s timbre and engages that ambling, string-festooned melody with a dreamy, charming nonchalance. (For the record, I’m hearing seven of the eight notes in the scale, many used more than once.) There’s that nifty chord shift in the middle of the verse (first heard at 0:15) that each time snaps the ear to attention even as nothing in particular announces it; it is not attached to either melody or lyric; and Groff lets it slide right under him, every time, most casually. The strings grow insistent, the guitars take the song back at 2:28, and the harmonies, suddenly all Brian Wilson-like, sing us up to the pensive coda. This is not some song someone dashed off on the back of a napkin in a bar.
Elsinore is a quartet from Champaign, up and running since 2004. The connection to Denmark and/or Hamlet is unaddressed by any promo material I could find. “Lines” is from Yes Yes Yes, the band’s third full-length album, released last week on Parasol Records.