Release Date: March 31, 2023
Elly Kace’s music is anchored by her unshakable openness: her willingness to experience new things, embrace new perspectives, and adapt to difficult circumstances. An acclaimed and internationally renowned opera singer, she explored new sides of herself when she released her debut pop album in 2021’s Nothing I see means anything, a densely conceptual and boundary-pushing collection of songs that explored her meditative, introspective, and danceable side. But with her latest full-length, Object Permanence, her songs have become deeply personal and yearning. It’s the encapsulation of her ceaseless searching and her willingness to be pushed to new creative heights, all while excavating her grief and turning it into something healing and stunning.
Where her debut came out of necessity with the events of 2020 putting her opera career on hold, Object Permanence was created with the same urgency. If Nothing I see means anything was Kace channeling the global upheaval of 2020 into her songs, then this LP is translating the turmoil and trauma from her own life. “I was examining death, in my meditations and in my life,” says Kace. “I wrote a couple of songs about death and was playing with this theme of object permanence. It's a brain skill that we develop as little kids that helps us understand that when a person or an object leaves the room, they still exist and don't just completely disappear.” As a thought experiment, Kace imagined that concept being applied to grief and the afterlife and came up with an idea. “My theory is our brains just aren't developed enough to sense those that are gone in a way that we can register,” she says.
This outlook became the starting point for the music Kace was writing and the framework from which she processed her own grief about her grandfather, aunt, and ex, who all passed away over the past three years. “People in my life kept dying,” she says. “With each death, I was exploring these ideas more deeply, and also exploring grief, the different colors of grief, and what that means.” The first song she wrote for this album “Built to Die” dives into her relationship with her ex, who died in 2019. “When he died, I actually felt his energy in my life, more than I ever did when we were together in a way that really unnerved me,” she says. “Our relationship was very tumultuous: It was the highest highs and the lowest lows.”
The song floats with lush and atmospheric production and Kace soars in the chorus, singing, “Let’s just melt beyond our bodies / ‘cause You and I will say goodbye / we were built to die.” It hones in on Kace’s fascination with object permanence and death, hinting at the dichotomy between invisibility and tangibility and sensing what can’t be seen. Elsewhere, in “Forgot My Name,” she dives into the darker moments of her relationship. She sings over skittering drums and regal strings, “I tried to hold your pain / But I couldn't change your heart / And I forgot my name / When you said we’d never part.” Kace says of the track, “This was me processing the codependency and unhealthiness in our relationship where I really forgot who I was, while we were together.”
“What I'm learning about grief through doing this project is both cathartic and unnerving,” she says. “Especially because my relationship was so complicated, I can't always tell if what I'm feeling is a benevolent thing that I can trust or if what I'm feeling is something to fear. This music was me embracing that ambiguity and uncertainty.” After spending enough time in grief’s gray areas, she found clarity while writing the song “Did the Love Fit,” about her aunt’s passing. “After she died, I had this sweater of hers that I couldn’t put on for six months,” she says. “The idea of it was too difficult but one day I woke up with a new focus. I waited until I was alone in the apartment. And I put the sweater on. And I just wrote. That song came out of me after an hour.” On the track, which builds to a swirling and soul-shattering climax, she sings, “Sorry I can't put my arms where your arms were / But I wanna know / Did the love fit through the phone?”
“I really wanted to learn about production on my own and explore who I am as a producer: It was simultaneously an exploration of death and an exploration of learning production,” she says. “Roses,” a song also about her aunt, showed Kace’s versatility as a songwriter. “I wrote in a grief mania,” she says. “And it is a wild song. It's very representative of how quirky she was and how quirky we were together.” The track features some of her tightest hooks and most adventurous songwriting yet simultaneously evoking artists like Kate Bush, Dirty Projectors and Joanna Newsom.
While Kace’s learned a lot about her own songwriting and production, she knew she needed to let more collaborators in to fill in the gaps. “I ended up inviting a lot of people in to work on certain tracks and perform on other tracks as well,” she says, noting collaborators like co-producers like Ziyad Asrar, who mixed the whole LP, William Brittelle, Franky Rousseau, Dominic Mekky, Steve Wallace, Alex Weston as well as guest musicians Erika Dohi, Colin Croom, and Will Miller. “That just made it grow into something really community based as well, which I thought was, was a really nice thing, considering it's about grief.”
Opening track “Disappear” captures Kace’s scope and a new focus that envelops the entire record. She sings over layers of her own voice, trumpets courtesy of Will Miller, and an unsettling backing track, “So I'll be ready for that last breath / the truth is -it might do nothing at all / But I know one thing / When I stare at you too long, you / disappear. / Isn't it nice? / we might not really be here.” Kace thrives in welcoming uncertainty and turning fear into something empowering. “Object Permanence is much scarier for me, in the good ways,” she says. “I'm actually telling stories from my life and about people in my life in a very public way. That’s been intimidating but it’s also been the way for me to cathartically and authentically use my voice.”