Rewind & Review: Horse Stories + Personal Fables by The Ellie Badge

About The Author

Who is The Ellie Badge? Well, it depends on when and where you see them. In some venues, you’ll see the generally expected four-man rock outfit: guitar, bass, and drums led by vocalist/guitarist Jeremiah Matthews. However, you may just as often find Matthews playing solo, dancing about a robust pedal board in his “shoegaze” style and making strategic use of loops to fill out the sound. No matter the live line up, Matthews typically writes, records, and mixes all the tunes himself. Horse Stories + Personal Fables, the third full-length album put out by The Ellie Badge, is no exception.

Horse Stories + Personal Fables official album art
Horse Stories + Personal Fables album art

Fear & Loathing in Loss

Despite being all from one human, Horse Stories + Personal Fables boasts an incredibly full sound. Matthews has clearly imagined every cubic centimeter of his soundscapes and brought them to fruition not only in execution of each voice, but also the mixing of the pieces as a whole. The album is served in halves, divided like a cassette tape with sides A & B. While distinct from one another, neither could make sense without its counterpart.

Side A is more focused on the melancholy and anger of a younger self. The outcasted feeling of “How To Be Cool At Parties” coupled with the speaker’s need for connection set a stage of desolation as the album’s first actual song. Of course that leads very abruptly to the raucous riot of “Grawlixes From The Book Of Job” where we get not only Biblical imagery, but notes of Homer’s Odyssey as well. It’s here Matthews begins to paint a bit of an “it’s complicated” relationship with God/god, a theme that seems to continue in “Only One”

Then “Hospital Song” starts with angry drums and bass, that is before the vocals reveal that the anger is born of fear and loss of a loved one. The melodic guitar enters as a pleading sense of hope, but it can’t save what it already lost. The lo-fi drum intro and crushed synth sounds of “WeSuckBlood” welcome you into some 8-bit Dracula castle as the narrator grips with his spite. It softens with time as the digital drums and dreamy guitar noodles flow in and out of rhythm before you are implored to switch the ‘tape’ to Side B.

One-Eighty By Summer

The B side starts with the hard-hitting and raw “All The Pretty Horses” where Matthews starts to analyze not just what causes his chaotic emotions, but why. It marks a shift in maturity and acts as the first step in getting ‘better’ that continues through its equally emotional successors “811” and “AAA”.

It’s within “…Except For This One” where the metamorphosis is cemented. Matthews lets go of his anger he previously held for the subject of earlier, more hateful songs. Resentment melts away as he realizes hate is an albatross that hurts the bearer as much if not more than its source. “I said I’d never write about you, but it’s never been about you,” he notes in realization.

Matthew’s fables are far from the whimsy of Mother Goose. They are centered more around loss like a tale of the Brothers Grimm, but with a lesson to be learned like in Aesop’s Fables. The last lyrics we hear from Matthews on the album are “who knows what’s good and what’s bad” – a nod to the Taoist story that teaches the same lesson. We can’t know the consequences of what life has handed to us until it happens.

Side C

The album ends as the author is cut off in his attempt to instruct us to flip the tape back to side A. Perhaps it’s because Matthews has broken the cycle of anger he found himself trapped in for so long. As the reader, this is the ending I choose to believe.

There’s so much to process within Horse Stories + Personal Fables that it make take a few listens to properly comprehend, but the journey is invigorating each pass through. Its lone shortcoming is that in this coming-of-age audiojournaling, the narrator’s voice is at times lost in the sound. But with a lyric sheet and some reference material (like the context of Edward VIII’s abdication speechHorse Stories proves to be a Pandora’s Box of soul-bared emotional turmoil that can be sifted through for hours.

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Horse Stories + Personal Fables officially releases on July 4th. You can purchase it along with the rest of The Ellie Badge’s discography on bandcamp. You can also stream The Ellie Badge on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, and other streaming services. The official release show is Friday July 19th at Pagan Mom House with Blvck Hippie and Schaefer Llana.

Required Listening: “Grawlixes From The Book Of Job”, “Just Stay Home”, “WeSuckBlood”