Craig fountain Oamaru gardens

The Garden Review by Amanda Mills

Swingbridge is the project of Oamaru musician Bridget Ellis and a collection of friends and musicians. The new album The Garden marks Ellis’ return to writing and recording for after a twenty year gap, and is a dynamic, diverse collection of songs that are intimate and personal, while resonating on a universal level. Ellis’ songs don’t stick to one template, instead moving between folk, alt-rock, and jazz influences and arrangements, but never losing sight of the original structure. Having a diverse array of textures and sounds works well for The Garden, with different sounds reflecting the different messages and themes Ellis has woven into the lyrics. Ellis’ contemplative vocal delivery works across the styles, starting  off strident on the album’s opening tracks ‘Day to Day’, and ‘Somthing’s Missing’, before becoming quieter and reflective on ‘Room of Love’ and ‘Keep in in the Ground’.  Personal  highlights are the jazzy, rhythmically shuffling ‘Howl at the Moon’ (which ends with a delightfully harmonic howl), and the wild ‘Hurtling’, which reflects the insistent message in the story being told.

Ellis and her crack group of musicians (including drummer Chris O’Connor, vocalist Steve Abel, bassist Steve Harrop, and vocalist Lynley Caldwell) have infused The Garden with passionate, polished performances, only enhanced by production which surrounds the songs with space to hear the nuances within the performances. Ellis is a writer in her prime, and the album is a testament to her talent as a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist.

The Garden is the perfect title (and metaphor) for the album – a lush, beautiful environment of sounds and textures that grows and expands with the changing timbre of the songs. As an art form, the album is alive and well in The Garden, an album that truly blends music, words, and imagery. 

Amanda Mills