Friday, August 30, 2013

Homemade Ship - Rose Melberg

Homemade Ship
Rose Melberg
K Records KLP 211

Rose Melberg was in a bunch of my favorite groups in the 1990s including the Softies, Tiger Trap, Go Sailor and Gaze and more recently Brave Irene.  This is her third solo album, actually it is more like her second solo album since the first one, "Portola," was a compilation of odds and ends.  The album is basically her and her guitar so it sounds a bit twee, but that is not a problem for me since I adore twee - I'd rather listen to the Shermans than the Ramones.  The album opens with the sweet "Things That We Do."   She tells the subject of the song that she wants to be around that person, under any circumstance no strings attached.  Melberg double tracks her vocal (as she does throughout the album) so it sounds a lot like the Softies.  She is terrific at crafting harmony vocals.  "Look Skyward" is similar musically and thematically.  It has the nice line "true love will always take you home."  In "Bear in a Cave" she compares herself to a hibernating bear as she isolates herself at home.  "Outlaws" has a bit of a Spanish or ranchera flavor to it as befits its western imagery.  "Old Days" returns to the quiet introspective style of the Softies as Melberg sings about how her new relationship is helping her to forget the past and enjoy life.  The double tracked vocal on this song is gorgeous.  Side one ends with "Moon Singer" which is a more sprightly tune, but a bit too twee even for me.  She describes herself as a raccoon singing only for the titular character who only sings for the moon.  Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, "Homemade Ship" which features another stunningly beautiful double tracked vocal.  It uses the metaphor of a ship at sea to poetically examine a relationship that has run off course.  Melberg is joined by Larissa Loyva on vocals for "Clay Bride" and "The Whistle Calling You" and their voices complement each other exquisitely evoking memories of Jen Sbragia and Melberg crooning together in the Softies.  Loyva is a Canadian indie pop singer who records under the name Kellarissa, I really like her CD "Flamingo."  "Clay Bride" is a glacially slow song full of nesting imagery while "The Whistle Calling You" is a livelier tune about commitment I believe.  "Sharks" is a short but striking song driven by an insistent guitar riff in which Melberg seeks her lover's company to illuminate the dark place in her mind where sharks gather and to drive them away.  I love the imagery in this song.  Loyva returns to play piano on "Sidewalk" which I find a welcome addition to the meager instrumentation on the album.  The song starts out with the image of a sidewalk cracking because of tree roots and moves into an exploration of belief and the fragility of relationships.  The album ends with "Truly" my other favorite song on the album.  It is a delicate love song with lots of emotion, it really sends me.  I greatly admire this record and play it often.  I do have mixed feelings about the sparseness of the instrumental accompaniment.  Certainly it bolsters the vulnerability and intimacy of the songs, but it is also a bit monotonous.  I don't mind the absence of a rhythm section, but I wouldn't mind a little more instrumental color besides Melberg's guitar, like an occasional violin or some keyboards.  Nonetheless this is a very atmospheric album that creates a mood of contemplation and muted romanticism.  It sounds great on a rainy afternoon or late at night.  Recommended to fans of Dear Nora.

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