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Rosie Thomas | These Friends of Mine | review | alternative | Lollipop

Rosie Thomas

These Friends of Mine (Sing-a-Long/Nettwerk)
by Tim Den

After If Songs Could Be Held, singer/songwriter Rosie Thomas suffered a broken heart and lost a label, two events that just happened to coincide with her search for a "bigger meaning" to making music. What happens when what you love to do becomes what you have to do? What happens when writing songs with your friends to express yourselves suddenly becomes a train of promotional activities? For Thomas, the answers to these tricky questions were also the answers to her personal life's dilemmas: She would find healing amongst her friends - specifically singer/songwriters Denison Witmer and Sufjan Stevens - putting her broken heart back together while rediscovering the joy of making music under no label deadlines/pressure. And so it was this process that produced These Friends of Mine, an album that finds Thomas strengthening herself through the help of friends, writing/playing/recording/having a good time without a care in the world.

Indeed, These Friends of Mine is a far cry from If Songs Could Be Held's polished nature, opting instead for one or two-take recordings of songs barely written 10 minutes prior. It's a loose, natural, friendly affair that fully captures Thomas and friends just messing around and having a good time. But when collaborators of this caliber "mess around," the results are obviously going to be better than those of amateurs. These Friends of Mine pack just as much tender beauty as Thomas' other works, be it the transcendental ode to NYC "Much Farther to Go" or a cover of R.E.M.'s "The One I Love." Her voice, as phantasmically entrancing and piercingly heartwarming as ever, whispers more than belts this time around, but is no less captivating. Melodies such as "Kite Song"'s is worth a million bucks, if you ask me, and Thomas never seems to run out of 'em. Even the call-and-response shortie "Say Hello" between her and Stevens - written in five minutes - is swollen with poignant gracefulness. Simply put, you should never expect anything less than "amazing" from this woman.

I do have a small complaint, though. Because the album was recorded in various bedrooms and living rooms, Thomas often had to be hush hush in her vocal delivery as to not disturb those around her. She often doubled her vocals to make them sound clearer, a move I think is totally unnecessary. The deceptively frail quality of her voice is what gives the melodies their haunting quality, and doubling it renders the magic obsolete. Sometimes the move conjures up images of a bad echoplex, which is about as synthetic as it gets. Nevertheless, these moments of technical nit-picking don't happen very often, and are never enough to distract the listener from recognizing These Friends of Mine's power. Thomas was able to regain her footing through the making of this album while delivering another fine batch of tunes to the world: I'd say she has come out of the other side of this whole soul searching thing just fine.
(www.nettwerk.com)

 


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