wears the trousers magazine

rose melberg: homemade ship (2009)
September 29, 2009, 9:27 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,


Rose Melberg
Homemade Ship ••••
K Records

An original darling of the International Pop Underground scene in Olympia, Washington, Rose Melberg earned her twee-punk credentials with much-loved bands Tiger Trap, The Softies and Go Sailor. Various deals with K Records, Kill Rock Stars and Slumberland have given Melberg’s indie credentials a hot-pink, riot grrrl glow, while the two Go Sailor numbers that featured on the soundtrack for cult, queer hit ‘But I’m A Cheerleader’ further compounded her mid-’90s, third wave-era eminence. A spot of drumming with Gaze led to on-the-road duets and recordings that eventually became part of her first solo record Portola in 1998, followed eight years later by a more individual affair in the heartfelt Cast Away The Clouds. Now back on K Records for the first time since The Softies’ swansong album Holiday In Rhode Island in 2000, Melberg’s third album Homemade Ship glides modestly out of those sturdy ports.

Taking an almost exclusively solo approach, the album is held together by Melberg and her busy acoustic guitar. The welcome, feather-light touches of piano and vocals from Larissa Loyva (of Kellarissa and P:ano fame) add a warmth to Melberg’s minimalist arrangements, but ultimately seem to highlight the album’s isolated nature. The clean, unvarnished quality of the production seem almost like high quality live recordings, giving the album a real-time authenticity that almost masks the lulling, daydream draw of the songs’ magic. The sparse, acoustic arrangements work hand in hand with the romantically melancholic lyrics, giving the whole album an air of someone in retreat and more than happy to lose themselves in the safety of their own introspective imagination.

The limited palette of instruments does nothing to dispel Melberg’s image as a consummate musician. She is clearly adept at the elegant and swift, folk-inspired finger-picking style that charts out Homemade Ship, and while the style is a classic one, Melberg breathes an airy, original glamour into the compositions, weaving inventive and winningly unusual note choices into undulating chords and foregoing the tired verse/chorus/bridge format with almost nonchalant grace. As ever, her voice has a distinctive, one-in-a-million clarity that manages to be both sweet and tart at the same time, a birdsong charm that could rival a whole choir of riot grrrl angels singing evensong.

Yet for all its tranquil beauty, the album’s softly hypnotic quality is one that’s difficult to stay connected to. Repeated listening is a daydream pleasure, but the cloud-bound songs are so gentle sounding they have little to tether them. Melberg’s voice actually works against her to some degree, since the searchingly reflective narratives and echoes of sorrow and hope become shrouded and somehow lost in her melodious, soothing notes. Netherless, it’s a joy to lose oneself in the golden harmonies of ‘Old Days’, sway with a smile to ‘Clay Bride’ and shiver with pleasure to the achingly earnest ‘Truly’, and you’ll find a little more bite in the subtly dizzying ‘Sharks’ and ‘Homemade Ship’, the resolutely wavering heart of the album.

Despite its faults, which seem like natural, unaccountable flaws rather than direct failures, Homemade Ship is a butterfly of an album: hard to pin down indefinitely but bright and supple. Melberg has clearly lost none of her inimitable, gold-spun charm, and continues to earn the respect and adulation that began in her ’90s heyday. Homemade Ship reveals an artist ever so slightly lost in reflection, but still with plenty of wind in her sails.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 21/09/09; www.myspace.com/rosemelberg


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[…] 89 Kasms – Spayed [3.5/5] 88 Wetdog – Frauhaus! [4.5/5] 87 Rose Melberg – Homemade Ship [4/5] 86 Pens – Hey Friend, What You Doing? [4.5/5] 85 Cryptacize – Mythomania [3.5/5] 84 Tiny […]

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