Ella Ross | Wasted Youth
Family Average: 3.5/7
The kids aren’t alright, they’re WASTED! While sometimes we are reviewing bands from other coasts and countries, young Ella Ross comes to us from the Asbury Park, which is just a mere 20 minute drive from our Maldjian family home. Some of the older reviewers were feeling her indie sound and felt her vocals were mature for her age. Others were less impressed. Just who thought what though?
Well, guess you’ll just have to listen along on Ella’s Spotify and read on to find out:
Coming hot off the heels of my 10,000 Maniacs review (article here), I found this album complimented it nicely. Listening to the two back to back brought forth an opportunity to see how indie rock has or has not changed over the last 31 years (yes, In My Tribe came out that long ago).
Since Ella Ross is fresh out of the Asbury Park, NJ music scene she already kind of wins me over in my heart with that special hometown connection. This is the second full-on total album release from our dear Ella, and I think she has really got a handle on the kind of sound she wants to get. I can hear similar sounds from acts like Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail. That being said, there is just a little more mustard on this album—and by mustard I mean a little more Rock. Maybe it’s the use of the full band on the majority of the tracks. We got keyboard, drums, electric guitar—it's a smorgasbord.
That all being said, I was drawn most to songs where her vocals shared the stage with less instruments, allowing them to really shine. I would be curious to hear some more songs like “Everything We Thought”. Here the vocals are only sharing the stage with some drums, and other ambient tones. I thought it was pretty neat and did well to break up monotony.
Other than that, I would call this a strong entry into this artist’s already impressive discography. Thanks Ella.
New Jersey seems to churn out some serious talent. Maybe it’s the water. Or the tomatoes. I hear those are good. Either way, Ella Ross lives up to the Garden-state musical prowess with this solid alt-pop debut. It’s complete with lyrical laments of bad relationships and love lost, mixed with synths and smooth vocals. Drawing on those tropes can make albums can feel one-dimensional and contrived, but Ross pumps it up with with a bit of girl angst and grit. Hell hath no fury, right? She’s got a knack for that hooky and driving chorus, especially in the final track “On Your Mark.” The weird, synthy, driving guitar and riffs that leak through her crooning adds some necessary texture and held my interest. The album seems rife with potential pop-anthems to be screamed along to at some music festival where everyone is drinking PBR in flower crowns. I’m kinda into it.
It is hard to believe this artist is only 20 years old. She sings and writes with much more experience than her years would allow. However, when you hear a song like, "Basement Parties" you realize just how young she is and what she is experiencing right now.
I enjoy listening to singer/songwriters like this because they put so much of themselves into each track. Still, she has a beautiful voice and in some songs I felt the musical arrangement did not support her strengths. I think on "Before Tonight" she may have been going for a Florence and the Machine’s presentation. She certainly has the vocals for this style, however it never quite pulls itself together. I just feel if she sticks with simpler arrangements her voice will get the attention it deserves.
I really feel hurt by the beginning of this album. The first song "felt nice" but that was the problem, because the rest failed to deliver. Wasted Youth made me appreciate my sense for when something is getting super old. Let me explain:
In this example, it sounds like the engineer copy-pasted the same vocal plugin preset on the vocalist tracks. The result is that each song possesses quite the similar and distasteful twang. Sure, it sits in the mix okay but it fails to mask her terrible vocal skills. I hated it. No deEsser in the world could fix her technical shortcomings when it comes to how to sing into a mic.
It begs the question, who is at fault here? And I don't want to get into it. Whatever the case is, ultimately it is the listener. Aside from the vocals, the music here is nothing to write home about. Congrats, you recorded a “pop alternative” album in 2018?
Sure Ella, tell me your pain via unoriginal lyrics found in 2nd grade bathrooms. Wasted Youth perfectly describes the time you took to create this album.
Wasted Youth. Ella Ross. First thought was “okay.” But then those lyrics hit me and I was like, “wait, kinda lame.”—I apologize, this album awoke something in me, I’m going to be kinda mean.
Like, “sitting alone on the train with my headphones on/tuning out the world to my favorite song”? These are just careless lyrics and easy rhymes. Generic pop. Songy. Kind of like a knock off of “Cool Kids” by echosmith. But the result was shallow—trying to be “artsy” by throwing in easy things that say “this is artsy!”. Like, take the album cover and the album title even. I was fooooled by the yellow title, and the name, and the photo. But when you look closely, the photo is just okay. She's wearing clean white converse. Green grass. The font is generic. It's all been done. And done better.
No substance, with a voice that is too perfect I’m bored. Fake artsy, shallow, easy, and with knock-off vans to boot. I couldn’t even get through a full song.
Did I waste my time listening to this album? Not really. I totally wanted to though, so I could use clever wordplay haha. But no, as a matter of fact, I heard a lot of potential. It was poppy—perhaps too poppy for my taste. But it definitely sounded like the music of our time. While the lyrics severely lacked in originality, I want to admire the effort. It was like she wrote what a 13 year old girl's tumblr page looks like.
The music, however, I found to be rather solid. It had my head bopping. It had me feeling just dandy...almost like I'd want to lay in the grass in my converse or something.