It’s been two years since Scott Royle’s first two releases, Sweet Shop Crop Top and How To Break The Horse. Both releases came out within two months of each other in the first half of 2015, the former a beefy EP, and the latter something of a coda. How To Break The Horse feels like an afterthought, a post script on just a few more things worth mentioning by-the-way. Comparitively, Royle’s new full-length album, Tennis Elbow, shows the difference two years can make.
Royle has been playing music in Atlantic Canada for the last decade and currently calls St. John’s, Newfoundland home. Apparently the first two releases came as something of a slow burn, put off between performing and working as a second stringer. When the first two releases appeared, they came in the form of this fuzzy sort of wandering jazz delivered as indie shoegaze.
Not that Royle’s first two releases aren’t enjoyable, but Tennis Elbow is decidedly more decisive in its delivery. It still heavily invokes the shoegaze sound, but there’s no wandering. The album gets right to the point, with what seems like more pop-y influences. Imagine Lou Reed crooning away to Experimental Aircraft. Where Royle excels is in his ability to encapsulate an experience in a series of minutiae. He weaves his lyrics like they’re disjointed fragments of imagery and parcels them out like an incantation.
‘There Is A Darkness’ stands out in particular as a track that conjures up an event, expecting us to swallow it, one ingredient at a time. At the centre of it is something that let’s us in on what Royle is getting at with Tennis Elbow. Wrapped in a shiny veneer, there’s still something a little unsettling throughout it: “Theres a place inside of me , where the light don’t always reach. There’s a darkness that agrees with me.”
‘Sweethearts‘ comes as the full fruition of the album’s overture. It’s easily the album’s poppiest track. It still manages to make references to blood and graveyards, but whose childhood doesn’t? It speaks of innocence and experience, and all those things you wish you could do again for the first time. And on top of all this, it’s catchy as hell.
The one catch in the album is ‘Sailor’s Mouth’, when Royle skips directly past ska and gets deep into bossa nova territory. It’s still done in Royle’s style of roughly tracing out bits of old memories and musings, but all of a sudden we’re sashaying about the deck of a cruise ship. Not every song needs to be the same, but this track leaves us doing a double take, making sure we didn’t hit the shuffle button somewhere.
The album concludes by winding down with the somber ‘Mending Fenymans Broken Heart’; a song about… well, who knows. But it seems like an intimate moment. Sometimes we only see the forest for the trees, and we’re not really sure what you’ve got, but it leaves the deep impression on us that we’ve experienced something that will linger with us for a long while. Which is appropriate for what, I suppose, is the aptly named Tennis Elbow. It might be a whispy collection of someone else’s thoughts, but it’s bound to linger.