From Iceland — Track By Track: Shelters Two By Jelena

Track By Track: Shelters Two By Jelena

Published December 9, 2023

Track By Track: Shelters Two By Jelena
Photo by
Juliette Rowland & Jamie Rawlings

Jelena Ćirić’s Shelters Two highlights human connections 

Jelena Ćirić’s beautifully serene EP Shelters Two was out October 26. Self-described as “the long lost love child of Regina Spektor and Joni Mitchell”, Jelena’s music is mellow and contemplative. Shelters Two is a four-track release, reflecting Jelena’s immigrant experiences, human connection and the boon of a driver’s license.

Rome

When I perform this song, I always introduce it by saying it’s about Romulus, Remus and Tinder. I find myths and legends super inspiring, and I think their plot lines are more realistic than many people give them credit for. While I admittedly don’t know anyone who was raised by a she-wolf, two brothers killing each other over who gets to rule a city is not at all removed from what’s making headlines these days. The human experience has been remarkably consistent throughout history: loving, longing, heartbreak. That’s mostly what this song is about.

I’ve learned to embrace the winter – or buy a plane ticket to somewhere warm, like any other Icelander.

With the heart-wrenching chorus and lavish strings, it’s maybe the closest I’ll ever come to writing a pop hit. Or maybe I’ll finally cave in to the pressure of every stranger who’s told me to enter the Eurovision Song Contest immediately upon learning I’m a musician. Only time will tell.

Other Girls

I think every woman sometimes gets caught up in comparing herself to other women. Inevitably, we judge ourselves to be inferior. Our real enemy is not each other, it’s the patriarchy that pits us against one another for its own benefit. This song is about dismantling that, very softly, with piano. Musically, it hints at my past life as a jazz singer in Mexico. That sounds like a joke, but is actually what I was doing before I moved to Iceland.

Inside Weather

I wrote this song during my first winter in Iceland. It was cold, it was dark. I was a newcomer in a strange new place and the stormy weather felt like a reflection of the inside of my head. That was a few years ago. Now I have friends and a driver’s licence, so life has improved dramatically. I’ve learned to embrace the winter – or buy a plane ticket to somewhere warm, like any other Icelander.

My two band members and collaborators Karl Pestka (viola) and Margrét Arnardóttir (accordion) open this track beautifully and sprinkle their magic throughout. I’m so grateful for the depth and richness they add to my songs.

Two brothers killing each other over who gets to rule a city is not at all removed from what’s making headlines these days.

Fig Tree

The most personal song on the EP. It’s about the fig tree my grandma used to have in her garden. That tree represents the immigrant experience for me: the things that you leave behind when you uproot yourself and things you gain when you put down roots in a new place. I originally wrote this as an a cappella song (just voice, no instruments), but Karl adds the most delicate, inspired accompaniment in this recorded version. It’s my favourite song to sing live because I get to stand up from the piano and face the audience and without fail, it sparks beautiful moments of connection. That’s when I really feel what a gift it is to be a musician, to open space for others to feel what they need to feel.

 

 

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