Edinburgh-via-Minnesota songwriter and visual artist Faith Eliott contributes the stunning “Grouper” to Ball of Wax 50, a track recorded with Ball of Wax stalwarts Colin J Nelson and Paul Beaudry (the Foghorns, Caleb & Walter, my band Virgin of the Birds, probably your band if you check at the next rehearsal) at Nelson’s Her Car studio in Fremont. “Grouper” is an ethereal, shimmering revelation of a song, a song about a fish that’s about so much more than a fish. It’s lyrically dense yet poetically fluid, addressing an unnamed “you” about “unknowable forces in their mercury hearts” before constructing a tower of words and imagery that resolve with “if that’s what it means / free to live in the world.” Eilott’s vocal performance saunters then soars at times and the arrangement gradually fills in before fanning out, introducing organ, then Beaudry on singing saw. At the emotional crescendo, Eliott’s own voice forms a mirrored backdrop of “oohs” and “aahs” that feel like a subtle triumph.
Despite its aquatic subject matter, “Grouper” could fit right in on Eliott’s outstanding 2016 EP, Insects, one of last year’s best releases on either side of the Atlantic. You should buy it and listen to it a lot.