The fact that the four piece group Elim Bolt is from Charleston, SC sheds much light on what they have done throughout their debut EP Nude South. They do well to make setting an essential element within their music. You can tell by the titles themselves that three tracks, “Field,” “Farm Kid,” and “Myers Farm,” have a clear connection with the outdoors and country living. The lyrics, however, are not always specifically connected to nature, or at least do not convey an especially obvious relationship. Instead, the events in the stories all take place within a small-town, southern setting; the lyrics would certainly not have the same impact if the stories were given an urban backdrop.
“Field” tells the story of life in Elim, South Carolina, a town where, “honey, there’s more deer than people.” After having grown up there the narrator recognizes there is nothing left to do in that small town and decides it is time to pack up and hit the road. The song is all about finding a place to feel comfortable, but the narrator soon realizes that his comfort comes from solitude, at which point moving from place to place seems all the more appealing. Heck, even the band’s name suggests an urge to depart from the small town life of Elim in the hopes of finding something better. The track is without a doubt worthy of being the group’s first single. Not only is it comprised of a catchy melody and lyrics, but the lyrics also have a genuine significance behind them.
With a title like “Batshit,” it is hard to tell what type of song you might be in for; it sounds like a title suited more for a dark, heavy rock album instead of for an indie album such as this. But this song, which contains a particularly catchy chorus, actually turns out to be a sweet song about love and how “batshit crazy” it can be. Although the group’s heritage is made clear throughout the album it is most obvious in the final track, “Blue Jays,” a blues-soaked, unhurried ballad. The electric guitar is utilized in a twangy manner, and lead vocalist Johnnie Matthews’ southern accent is illuminated in the style that certain vowels are drawn out. Both of these contribute to the track’s overall vintage, rural impression.
A few of the lines are difficult to discern and will leave you straining to make out Matthews’ words. The vocals sometimes get lost within the instrumentation levels and within the layers of reverb that echo here and there. But then again, there are a few renowned artist who have made this sound work for them – Bon Iver and Radiohead to name just a couple. The band has a backup female vocalist, Amber Joyner, that compliments Matthews well. Her voice gives their sound a folk aspect in that her accent carries a Lucinda Williams-type flair. They boast an indie sound similar to the Killers, though Matthews carries a deeper voice and a southern drawl. The group has a distinctive old soul feel to their songs while still being able to maintain a fresh, contemporary sound alongside it.
The songs on Nude South are simple in the way that they have been written and in the way that choice lines have been repeated throughout a track. However, the album is surprisingly so much more than that once you take the time to listen to how the lyrics link together and to discern the meaning behind them, which is what makes Elim Bolt’s debut EP sound so mature as a whole.