Blue Roses – S/T (XL)
That Laura Groves is only 21 years old at the time of writing makes her debut album under the Blue Roses banner remarkable. The superficialities of her rise to prominence read like those any number of disenfranchised, brave and un-encouraged girls; a country upbringing, impeccably quirky influences and borrowed equipment and voices, but a dazzling desire to escape whatever ‘trappings’ are often associated with young female performers in their press releases has made this self-titled record something of a loner in its triumph.
Delicate rubati, orchestrated strokes of emotional highlighting and Groves’ voice itself provide endless bafflement, excitement and gentle exhilaration. The final phrases of Coast evoke storms building on the high seas and, because Groves sees lyric and note as a most inherent intertwining, we hear misty strains of shanty accordion. Details, maybe, but ones that are indicative of consummate writing, encompassed with watertight thematic and musical interaction.
The voice will no-doubt see comparison to Joanna Newsome while the album is critiqued, but there’s an expansiveness that Groves has that Newsome can’t challenge. Where Newsome has the more elaborate orchestration and labyrinthine construction, Groves has the emotional trump in her delicate delivery. She doesn’t even sound that much like her. No more laziness please, press peeps. Besides, Groves’ auto-harmonies lift her voice from pretty to spectral, almost gaudy in their histrionic, triadic excess, but reigned in by centred melodies.
Instrumentally Groves displays an affinity for quirkiness of timbre, but not an overreaching, self-sabotaging desire for wackiness. There’s no “ooh, check my Bolivian anal flute”, more a considered ear bent towards creating the correct atmosphere. It’s a sly multi-faceted approach, but one that means the accessibility of pianos, guitars and strings are given real legs for walking by the addition of instinctive extra instrumentation, from the kalimbas of single Doubtful Comforts to the gentle bleeps of warm synthesizer on I Am Leaving Now.
Indeed, for an album that relies an awful lot on its quirks and corners of interest, Blue Roses manages to retain an admirably humanist core. It seems that Groves has written these initially for sparse performance, but elaborated on her bases to make the compositions very beautiful, involving and unabashedly romantic affairs. For the listener, it’s heartening to see this much care being taken over popular songs – surely the upshot will be worthy attention being lavished upon Groves from now on.
This was out Monday. PM was on holiday, alright? GIVE US A BREAK, DIV! More music here.