Review Summary: Lush, hazy, captivating, and distinctly west coast.
Canada’s West Coast music scene has been experiencing some sort of revival lately. As local artists like Japandroids, White Lung, Hey Ocean!, Dan Mangan, and Mother Mother start to get more mainstream exposure, the international music community is beginning to take Vancouver (and its surrounding areas) seriously as a place that fosters new and exciting talent. The latest buzz-worthy album to come out of this scene is the debut album by Vancouver Island based songwriter Rosie June. Listening Post
is a singer-songwriter album for the 21st century. Instead of simply carving a singular niche for herself and her music, Rosie June has demonstrated that she is comfortable with a number of different styles and approaches. This results in a complete listen overflowing with variety, which is immensely refreshing in a time where folk-centred singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen.
First and foremost, Rosie June is a singer and a lyricist, and Listening Post
certainly plays to these strengths. The lyrical themes perfectly walk the fine line between cryptic and straight-forward, with just the right amount of reliability thrown into the mix. On ‘Feel Better,’ Rosie croons: “ There’s no way to tell / I couldn’t ask / Why you’re always hanging around / Why you’re always hanging around / The sound of your voice is trying to guess / guessing what you already know / guessing but you already know
,” and it’s never quite clear what it is, exactly, that she’s on about. Nevertheless, it somehow draws you in and the emotional weight of the lyrics finds some way to tug at the heartstrings and have you rooting for the protagonist. There is an air of vulnerability on this record, though at the same time, it screams confidence.
What will most likely hook first-time listeners are the angelic vocals, and the care that they are treated with to bring a unique effect to each song. At times, they are layered in such a way that brings out previously hidden qualities, and creates a beautiful wall of dreamy noise. In this respect, sonically, this album could almost be compared to the bubbling dream-pop scene and bands like Wild Nothing or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The lush guitar tones and angelic layered vocals combine, at times, to create a sense of atmosphere that is hazy and completely engrossing. This is most noticeable on ‘Lion on Your Side,’ a definite highlight. The track starts as many on the album do: a solitary guitar line combined with Rosie’s signature dreamy vocals and a minimalistic, swelling synth line. As the track builds up, more instruments and layers are thrown into the mix, including a catchy drum beat, some glitchy electric guitar, a beautiful piano line, and much more. By the time the track reaches its climax, the listener is greeted with a cacophony of mesmerizing melody. Artists that can create this sort of captivating tonal quality are few and far between these days. It is worth mentioning here that this album is produced absolutely brilliantly (credit to the incredibly gifted Jonathan Evans here). Listening Post
probably could have been released as a stripped-down, guitar and vocals affair, and it would have sounded just fine. However, the tracks are all treated with extreme attention to detail, and include the sorts of finishing touches that fans of huge-sounding, polished music will appreciate. Strings are used sparingly throughout the album, as are cymbal crashes, electric guitar effects, and numerous other perfectly picked bits of instrumental flair.
The music is hard to pigeonhole, genre-wise, which is one sign of a truly great album. Suffice it to say that Rosie June’s debut is an incredibly well-crafted, lush, dreamy soundscape of lyrically focussed indie-rock that represents the scene on the coast (and more specifically, Vancouver Island) very well. We are almost certainly sure to hear more from this rising star in the near future. For now, we have Listening Post
which is an incredibly accomplished album, especially when you consider that this is her debut. As long as this young musician continues to evolve and perfect her enchanting sound, the future looks bright for Western Canada’s independent music scene.