There are approximately several thousand young earnest singer-songwriters out there at any particular moment, heart on sleeve, doing (in practice) the exact same thing that Rose Melberg is doing, but for my money, there are so fucking few who do it as well as she does. In the mid-nineties, with the Softies and Tiger Trap, Melberg helped shape the International Pop Underground aesthetic of K Records. It’s 2009 now, the Softies are long gone, and Melberg’s music has only grown in conciseness, poise, and intimacy. All the fat (so to speak) has been cut away, and her music is a direct line to all of the heart’s little secrets. Her words are clear-headed and truthful meditations on the everyday quandaries of life and love — from the point of view of someone who has lived, loved, lost, and seen quite a bit of the world — so she’s got something to say, folks. Her guitar playing is warm and simple, all chiming chords and softly plucked strings. Her voice is clear and soft, always young and not self-conscious, reminiscent of Tim Buckley, Vashit Bunyan, and Simon and Garfunkel, but at this point in her career, she’s probably got more imitators than influences.
“Things That We Do” is one of the most mature, generous meditations on repairing love that I’ve ever heard — admitting fault, giving space, valuing friendship over heartbreak — goddamn, the singer/songwriter songbook went right out the window with this one. “Look Skyward” reminds me of the aforementioned Simon and Garfunkel at their most autumnal, delicately picked acoustic spiderwebs, and Melberg harmonizing with herself. The delicate and melancholy pacing of “Old Days” interweaves acoustic guitar lines like a lattice, all medieval, and a minute of swoonworthy coda, two lone female voices in an incantation of “oh love take hold.” “Clay Bride” borrows some harmonies from the Beatles’ “Sun King,” strips them to the very essence, and suspends them in golden amber. “Sidewalk’s” warm piano chords add a counterpoint to guitar strums and powerful low-high vocals — pure sad-pop that the likes of Laura Nyro and This Mortal Coil would have killed for. Songs are brief and uncluttered — the last words on this album are “I cried too many times today.” This one’s for the lonely.
K Records: www.krecs.com