Review Summary: be warm and steady in the wind, and your soft imperfect, body -- do not cover it
saw Hey Rosetta! hit the big-time, in more ways than one. Award-winning, driving, and expansive, Newfoundland’s Tim Baker and co. graced us with an incredibly inventive and impressively accessible collection of songs. There were moments that showed us absolute brilliance: the uplifting but realistic poetry of ‘Welcome’, the stunning arrangements in ‘Yer Spring’, and Baker’s career-defining, throat-baring 17-second vocal climax in ‘Yer Fall’. A force to be reckoned with, Seeds
was, and an album many fans would be happy to have be Hey Rosetta!’s best work. See, Seeds
was arguably perfect, and it’s admittedly unfair to ask more of the band. It’s no surprise 2014’s Second Sight
doesn’t match the heights of its predecessor, but this fact should be equally unsurprising: Hey Rosetta!’s Second Sight
is a damn good album, and should confidently put the St. John’s indie-rock band in the hearts of many as one of Canada’s top-tier bands.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say Second Sight
is a safe album. However, it’s hard to describe what happens here exactly that way, as Hey Rosetta!’s penchant to create massive, enveloping orchestral arrangements has not gone away, it’s just taking a few less risks this time around. There are still marks of obvious progression all over: ‘Harriet’ has a near big-band sound that crescendos in a series of pentecostal key changes, ‘Kid Gloves’ gives a spacious, electronic vibe, and ‘Trish’s Song’ pulls things back enough to experience Baker’s vocals in a fresh and newly intimate way. The increased inclusion of female vocals, the stronger emphasis on unforgettable hooks, and the constantly innovative rhythm provided by bassist Josh Ward and drummer Phil Maloney all suggest the band will - even in their least risky release - continue to push themselves into new territory. The music on Second Sight
is clever, and never uninventive.
And well, if anything, the band’s biggest risks are the least successful: ‘Neon Beyond’ is an admirable song, with its kinetic verses and decidedly unhinged chorus, but much of the song (particularly the ending) comes off as sloppy and rushed. ‘Kid Gloves’ is a neat tune in isolation, but offers the least thrills as far as replay value is concerned and stifles the tracklist’s energy. ‘Cathedral Bells’ is a beautiful song with a suitably gorgeous set of lyrics, but its melodies are a touch too repetitive and perhaps a hair too similar to the band’s 2012 Christmas gem ‘Carry Me Home’. These songs are all arguably new sounds to the band, but they’re also perhaps the least well-executed -- which means, in turn, the songs where Hey Rosetta! play it safe are the most magical.
The full-throttled trio of songs that open Second Sight
are immediate and, in no uncertain terms, flawless. ‘Soft Offering (For the Oft-Suffering)’ is a non-stop Phil Collins-inspired tour-de-force of inspired melodies and instrumentation. ‘Gold Teeth’ is a simple song with an excellent twist: a determined and joyous first half of standard hooks and indie-rock stylings give way to the organ-led key change of the second half in seamless perfection. ‘Dream’, the best single the band has never released as a single, is the catchiest thing the band has put to tape -- “through dark clouds all circling our house like a tourniquet”, sings Baker as he leads the band through a series of harmonies, cutesy unorthodox piano-driven time signatures, and Second Sight
’s most jaw-dropping vocal acrobatics. These songs, and certainly the later quick-tempo’d ‘Kinstukuroi’, are the most accessible Hey Rosetta! have ever been, but there is no compromise in songwriting quality. That’s a beautiful thing right there.
The album’s more subtly defined moments are no slackers either: I’m looking at you, ‘What Arrows’ and ‘Alcatraz’. Both songs are slow-burning, haunting and stunning; each bearing over six minutes of atmosphere and gentle conviction. Perhaps Second Sight
’s most satisfying moment occurs in ‘Alcatraz’, a song that takes the most time to warm up to, as Baker passionately and emphatically sings out these golden words: “In that city like a dream, see the breezes go around you, see the long grasses yield... be out there, exiting the bars at the finest hour of morning -- nearly lost, but not.
” It’s a powerful moment, amidst the increasingly dense guitars and cymbals, and one that highlights both Baker’s distinguished way with words and his band’s ability to perfectly compliment his convicting delivery.
cannot be Hey Rosetta!’s best album. It doesn’t have a choice. But let me tell you, there is no fault in admitting that. This is a collection of profoundly beautiful and well-arranged songs that I’m sure will stand the test of time, and it is no slouch next to Seeds
. Maybe the future will see the band spreading its limbs out further into genre-defying masterpieces, but for now, we have their safest offering: and it’s safe to say, it’s still a generous offering indeed. Keep your eye on this space, because Hey Rosetta! isn’t showing signs of letting up.