Emerging from a basement in Leeds circa 2019, elkyn is the moniker of 22-year-old songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Donnelly. It was while studying at university that Joseph wrote the songs that would become elkyn, retreating to his family home in York to record them with the help of his brother. The result was the acclaimed EP, beech, shared back in July; seven intimate, echoing snapshots, reminiscent of the likes of Angelo De Augustine or Skullcrusher. With plans to take the record on the road currently on hold, Joseph has been back writing and recording, resulting in his new track, if only it was alright now, which is premiering here today.
The track marks a different approach for elkyn, with his first foray into a music studio, recorded with producer Mark Gustafson at Nava Studio in Leeds. The result is a track that expands on the ambition of his previous output, without losing any of the whispered closeness that was so compelling. The track begins with just Joseph’s guitar, a rhythmic, finger-picked style, then his voice creeps in, half-whispered, “I laid my bed here, sailed right in this place, god I hate it here, why’d you take me out this way?“. As the track progresses, it gradually builds, as first burbling, atmospheric electronics arrive, slowly coming to the fore, before a surprisingly driving drum-beat lifts the whole thing; a rich sound, that casts a subtle nod to Phoebe Bridgers more recent output.
Sometimes with a singer-songwriter, you can feel like you’ve heard it all before, as if there’s nothing more for an acoustic guitar to say, and then sometimes someone comes along and breathes fresh life into the old genre. Here elkyn does exactly that, he reminds me why people keep coming back to this style, and in doing so marks himself out as an artist very much on the rise.