While we loved Oh, Rose‘s EP That Do Now See, and included double A-side 1919 on our Favourite Free Music of 2014 list, we never got a chance to properly explain why we are such big fans. The band, from Olympia, WA, are an indie rock/lo-fi outfit led by Olivia Rose, whose voice carries the tracks beyond the genre norms into peculiar territories. Raw and versatile, her vocals range from whelps and wails to quiet, haunted whispers. The band have just released their début full length SEVEN, a record on which, if anything, Rose pushes things even further.
After a quick count-in ‘Lottery’ dives headlong into things, Rose detailing her plans for winning a lot of money, backed with just frantic enough instrumentation. The track sets out the vibe on the album, an indie rock energy laced with something sinister, as if something dark is using Rose’s lyrics to communicate its message. “If I won the lottery…” she sings, following it up with a variety of strange scenarios: “I’d buy you a house with no doors and no windows”, ” I’d buy you a sports car with no brakes”, and, perhaps tellingly, “I’d buy back the things that I sold to the devil”. This last statement forms a desperate refrain which sets up the noisy finale, where the guitars pick up and percussion gathers intensity and several voices shout at once “Cause I’m a poor poor sport, playin’ games with love”.
‘Run’ is slow and sultry, showing off Rose’s trademark warbled vocals, sometimes deceptively slow and dreamy (with added oooohs) and sometimes energetic and spiky, like a combination of Angel Olsen, Mitski and Lemolo. The halfway mark sees the track burst into life, with the instrumentation clattering into some kind of tempo as Rose’s vocals become manic and unpredictable. And if ‘Run’ was a command then ‘Running’ is the action, lean and wiry guitars lead proceedings while a lo-fi buzz envelopes everything, Rose’s words cutting through like shards of glass. The vocals have the quality of an exorcism, like the unnatural utterings of a twelve year old as some jaded man of faith flicks holy water at her forehead. Here Rose sounds quite literally possessed, as if channelling something old and malevolent and playful in a mean, spiteful way. “Put your faith in your eyes,” it urges. “Keep running” it demands.
The title track has a slower build which acts as the quiet before the storm, the hush that descends over a room after something traumatic has occurred, the lull when those present are waiting to see if it will return. And return it does, the track lurching into a rhythmic frenzy, culminating in a demonic wail at the halfway mark, a moment unexpected in its ferocity even after previous songs. It’s as if the entity is no longer speaking via her mouth but climbing right through it. “My need to please”, it howls, “my need”, and you can just imagine the audience scattering as something hideous emerges on the stage. The track finishes with the heavy rumble of reverb like the electric vibration of recent violence in the air, slowly dissipating into the restrained ‘Only’, which opens with a quiet synth line that sounds like disembodied breath across the top of glass bottles. The shuffling drums and forlorn lyrics have a lonely feel, as if originating from the bottom of the ocean, Rose’s words slinking and sliding like pale invertebrates against the cetacean squeaks of the background vocals. ‘Winter’ continues the introspective quiet, the underwater scene growing darker until nothing can be seen, as if all energy was consumed and the entity burnt out during the earlier disturbance. It is only around the four minute mark where a crescendo is reached again, life flooding back into the depleted channels, and ‘Flu’ ends with the intensity gathering once more, itself building up to a climax of repeated bird-like shrieks, as if the thing is rising from its hibernation or emerging from its cocoon, freshly metamorphosed with a pair of dazzling wings.
Rose’s vocals alternate between dreamy oohs and idiosyncratic warbles, guttural growls and unnatural wails. Yelps and yells and cries and squeals… I’m not sure I can think of another singer who has such a diversity of delivery styles. Its quite incredible to hear and I can only imagine how her vocal chords must feel after a show. Probably barely any better than if some ghostly creature did clamber out of her throat.