On their second full-length release, Elk City further refines their blend of psychedelia, folk-rock, and indie rock with Hold Tight the Ropes. Presenting a caustic and vulnerable beauty, guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan and bassist (actually a Fender-Rhodes piano bass) Renee LoBue create strangely intense dark dialogues over a hazy din of ominous sounds. A study in combining slightly contrary elements, LoBue's sighing vocals and Langland-Hassan's almost taunting, Stephen Malkmus-esque delivery create an odd tension between the apparent resignation and defiance found in the moods displayed. With lean, muscular guitars becoming quite reminiscent of Neil Young's late-'70s work with Crazy Horse, they manage to shovel several layers of dissonance over the vocals, rendering them fairly indecipherable but not keeping the underlying moods from fully emerging. Although the rather no-frills approach generally suits them very well, the burned-out balladry of tracks like "Crimson" and the three-chord catchiness of "Summer Song" provide particularly affecting moments. Ultimately, even though the everyday elements of their generally irony-free songwriting makes them a band somewhat lacking in gimmicks, Elk City are masters at taking the commonplace and creating something vaguely familiar and inviting but deceptively enduring all the same.
AllMusic Review by Matt Fink