A few weeks ago, and one week before his band’s debut album was set to arrive, I chatted up Scott Krueger, lead vocalist and songwriter from burgeoning Nashville alt-rockers Elliot Root. Although the band has been creating music for the last six years, their first full-length studio LP, Conjure, has just now surfaced.
Broadly speaking, Conjure is a strong record. Krueger's voice is certainly the emotional barometer of the project, and they also keep the soundscapes soulful while infusing them with an R&B edge. But the interplay between Melissa Mattey's keyboards and programmed percussion, Sean Truskowski's drums, and Todd Bond's guitars create a compelling aural ebb and flow that give Krueger a lot of space to play with his full range of vocal motion. The band's insistence on complete and real creativity as a collaborative has brought them—and Conjure, as a result—to a very good place.
"Suddenly Everything,” the album's opening track, fades in on a single sustained synth bass note, and eventually swells with layered bouquets of distorted synths and feathery vocals by Krueger. By the end of its short minute-and-a-quarter, it ascends into waves of thundering percussion and cascading ad libs. This is the stuff Elliot Root does superbly well—building the musical equivalent of a delicious tiramisu with varied textures and tastes. "Lost Man Running" and "Hold On,” although more up-tempo, are also great examples of this well-constructed momentum.
A short pause after "Suddenly..." is followed by the title track, which turns up the urgency with a thumping EDM pulse and a driving piano melody. Krueger's voice reaches full capacity, pushing the choruses skyward. He's a gifted vocalist that embraces nuance. "Take Your Money" is almost gospel-like in its cadence, building on a stratum of Krueger's moody lower register, a falsetto countermelody, and a big-bodied finish with his expressive tenor at maximum throttle. There are a lot of moments on Conjure when these types of flourishes from Krueger feel super satisfying.
Conjure's first single, "10,000,” is an excellent ballad that, I'm sure unintentionally, manages to sum up exactly how I feel about air travel in its chorus: (“10,000 feet above the ground / and I am floating in an unusual headspace / feeling like my mind is laced / with the doubts and fears of this place”). All jokes aside, its atmosphere does evoke lovely imagery of weightlessness and floating above the clouds—once again proof that Krueger's emotive writing and performance has a real impact on the album's effectiveness. In fact, the sum of the album's slower jams like "End of Our Faults,” "Stay,” and "Tomorrow" are among the moments on the album I enjoyed most as I made my way through it.
"Wicked Lies" is unquestionably one of Conjure's highlights—and quite possibly its most radio-ready extract. Its blues sashay with well-placed guitar-and-synth sweetening is completely infectious—a perfect end-of-summer airplay add across at least a few different formats.
Start to finish, Conjure's production is meticulous but not overwrought. It's pretty clear that this band loves playing and creating together, an asset that will work in favor of those fans who get to see Elliot Root on the road with North Carolina's Rainbow Kitten Surprise this fall.
They've added a couple of headlining appearances in Bristol, Virginia and Aspen, Colorado in front of their original Memphis tour kick-off on October 1, after which they'll stay mostly south through the end of October when they wrap up in their home state at Knoxville's The Concourse. Hopefully this means there will be another leg or two of the tour on the horizon after the new year.
I'd recommend sampling Conjure at least once or twice through a set of headphones just so you don't miss out on the neat little intricacies the band has lovingly crafted on the record, as there's a lot to discover on repeated plays. I've always loved a good listener's album, and this is one that's worth the time and energy to explore.
Notable Tracks: “10,000” | “End of Our Faults” | “Wicked Lies”
SEE: Elliot Root on tour | Dates