Overcoats, the Brooklyn-based duo-band of Hana Elion ‘15 and JJ Mitchell ‘15, recently released their debut album, YOUNG, which showcases their unique combination of soulful folk songwriting and electronic dance beats. Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell began harmonizing together during their freshman year at Wesleyan and started writing and sharing their original music as seniors.
Their website describes how the name Overcoats “comes from the strength they find in making music together. Like an overcoat, Hana and JJ’s music is as much about the armor they create for themselves through their art as it is about the vulnerability beneath.” Since graduating, they have continued developing their rich sound and have gone on to perform across and country and around the world with a number of different indie/folk artists.
The tracks on YOUNG tell stories about the two best friends’ journey into womanhood and the struggle to balance solitude with the connections formed through familial, platonic, and romantic love. The lyrics are honest and expressive, and the harmonies and rhythms are simple yet memorable.
There are themes that resonate throughout the album: themes of confronting change and fear of what the future will bring and the loneliness that one feels in relationships with parents, partners, friends, etc. Notable tracks like “23” and “Walk On” perfectly capture the vulnerability and darkness one experiences when they feel as though they are trapped by anxiety and fear. There is a moment in the verse of “23” that is especially thought-provoking: “I used to walk on my own / Now I’m scared of being alone / I keep pulling you closer / But it’s not love anymore”. Meanwhile, “Hold Me Close” and “Leave the Light On” layer poignant and heartfelt lyrics over catchy dance music and tackle the challenge of conveying what it’s like to feel uncertain of where your life is heading but also being able to love yourself and embrace the beauty of the present.
The most memorable song on the album, for me, was “The Fog”, the sixth track off YOUNG, which the two wrote while at Wesleyan to embody their shared experiences with sexism. Near the end of their senior year at Wesleyan, Overcoats won Battle of the Bands but ended up being the only female act on the Spring Fling lineup, which speaks to the flaws in the music scene. The song is about self-reliance and reclaiming independence through music. With haunting lyrics like “Talks me down till I’m sitting silent / Wants me to ask before I speak / As I hold my tongue all I taste is his bitter grief / Freedom is when I’m without you” over droning electronic beats, this song highlights a deep sadness and tenderness that is integral to the album.
YOUNG easily makes its way to the top of my list for the best albums of 2017 so far, and the duo have already received much attention and praise from NPR. Be sure to give the album a listen (or multiple) and maybe even catch them live on their summer tour.
- Allison Hsu ‘20