Elephant Stone is a Montreal-based psych-rock quartet that was formed by bassist and sitar player Rishi Dhir back in 2008. I got into them pretty much right from the start because I loved Dhir’s work with The High Dials* and was more than a little sad when I heard he had left that group.
Elephant Stone’s 2009 debut album, “The seven seas”, had me sold immediately and had me trying to convince all of my other friends to give the band a go as well. I got to see them live at the now defunct Zaphod Beeblebrox here in Ottawa back in 2010 and then, three years later, I saw Dhir perform live onstage with Beck at Montreal’s Osheaga festival. Indeed, Dhir’s sitar work is well known and sought after in the psych rock circles and he’s collaborated, either live or in studio, with the likes of The Horrors, The Black Angels, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the aforementioned Beck. He even created a psych-rock supergroup of sorts called MIEN and released one self-titled album in 2018, that included the work of The Black Angels’ Alex Maas, The Horrors’ Tom Furse, and The Earlies’ John-Mark Lapham.
But I’ve strayed off course a bit here. Rishi Dhir is the driving force behind Elephant Stone but he’s also always had a great team behind him. Each of the group’s five albums have been critically acclaimed, and each has told a different story. On their 2020 album, “Hollow”, Dhir and his band are reaching out to a dystopian world of disconnected and unhappy souls, one that was inspired by the impacts on our society by social media.
“We long to feel less empty inside our hollow world
These hollow days bring so much hurt”
These are words from the opening track, “Hollow world”, but if you weren’t paying attention, you could be forgiven for thinking the message more uplifting than that. The song is a dreamy and technicolour piece of paradise, one that refracts blinding shards of light in all directions. Much like the best of Elephant Stone, this smacks of what The Beatles might’ve been had George Harrison had more sway at the height of his Indian classical music fascination. It is bright pop and sounds young, joyful and hopeful, especially when Rishi brings out his daughter Meera Skye Dhir to join him on vocals to close things out. Genius.
*Another excellent Canadian indie rock outfit out of Montreal with a psych rock influenced sound.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.