In November, Robert Ellis debuted the song “Fucking Crazy” from his forthcoming album Texas Piano Man and, along with it, a new musical persona that mixes his Texas roots with Elton John’s glam period. He stays the course for the album’s latest release, “Passive Aggressive,” which wraps a plea for better communication in the playful stop-start rhythms of “Bennie and the Jets.”
“Go on ahead and say something you cannot take back,” sings Ellis in the first verse, his lyrics sometimes at odds with the song’s playful sound. As its title suggests, “Passive Aggressive” is directed at someone whose tendency to hide feelings may be actively harming the relationship. “I wish you would just give it to me straight. . . before I lose my mind,” he later adds, ushering in a crescendo of soulful wails and crashing drums, immediately followed by a muted, almost-whispered run through the chorus. It’s full of the little musical surprises, like the elegant, Beatles-esque guitar vamp that bridges sections, or the off-kilter stops in the second verse, that have been a constant in Ellis’ ever-evolving work.
Texas Piano Man will be released via New West Records on February 14th. This release follows 2018’s Western Movies, Ellis’ debut with the supergroup Traveller, which he formed with friends Jonny Fritz and Cory Chisel.