Ela: Real Blood on Fake Trees

Real Blood on Fake Trees
Afternoon Records

At Christmas dinner this year (mostaccioli and ham—don't ask) my 16-year-old cousin tittered over the silence (don't ask) and opined that her cat, whose neck was decorated in a velvet red bow, looked "emo." Wha? It's not like it was wearing a Dashboard Confessional T-shirt and leg warmers.

Her sister responded to my obvious look of befuddlement: "Lame," she told me. "Or gay." Ah, yes. Except for new synonyms, high school hasn't changed a bit. I'm down with the lingo, though that word—"emo," that is—has made my skin crawl like a toddler chasing a dog's tail since at least 1996.

That said, this second effort from four-piece local kinda-supergroup Ela (composed of Bill Caperton and Knol Tate of Askeleton and Sean McPherson and Peter Leggett of Heiruspecs) sometimes treads that terrain whose name I dare not mention. Yet Ela never careen into the self-indulgence and genre-specific feigned and strained vocals that make the sound so easy for anyone with a guitar, vocal chords, and an Urban Outfitters-loving, suburban ex-girlfriend to mimic.

Instead, Caperton is beautifully restrained and earnest, often contemplative and quiet, and Leggett's groovy beats and Tate's ethereal keyboards lend the band a dreamy, dance-y, new-wave sound. In fact, the band goes beyond the sum of its supergroup parts, and often sounds like a collaboration of something much larger. Bits of critically acclaimed local groups the Plastic Constellations; Halloween, Alaska; and Duplomacy are reflected in Ela's varied pre-slumber and post-party sound, which is a beautiful thing. Because even as our MyUniverse is infinitely expanding, it proves we are more intimately intertwined than ever, and that some things, like high school, never do change.