Philadelphia’s Rosali builds upon the ethereality of her debut – 2016’s acclaimed ‘Out of Love’ – on the ghostly ‘Trouble Anyway,’ recorded and mixed by Jeff Zeigler, who has worked with The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile among others. On her sophomore outing, Rosali enlists a group of musicians that share her love of mood and texture, including Charlie Hall (War on Drugs), Paul Sukeena (Angel Olsen), Mary Lattimore, Mike Polizze (Purling Hiss), Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn, Black Twig Pickers), Gretchen Lohse (Carol Cleveland Sings), and Dan Provenzano (Purling Hiss, Writhing Squares).
On ‘Trouble Anyway,’ the guitars (played by Rosali, Polizze, and Sukeena) are not only front and centre, but to each side, in and out, and all around; colouring the soundscape with droning sustain and lightly distorted and strummed riffs that perfectly complement Rosali’s wordless vocalizations and the sluggish, swaying tempos that seem to float through space and time.
Highlights abound, from the grungy, propulsive bass that opens the album on the mood-setting War on Drugs-like ‘I Wanna Know,’ to the beautiful battle of guitars that envelop the stand-out track – and instantly memorable – ‘Lie to Me.’ Bowles adds his transcendent banjo stylings to the gorgeous ‘Who’s to Say’ with touches of violin and gentle guitar hovering over a foundation of driving toms and snare. Rosali approaches country-folk most explicitly, although through Margo Timmins channeling Rosanne Cash’s ‘90s work, on the sublime ‘If I Was Your Heart.’ The epic-length swamp-noise of ‘Rise to Fall’ is powered by the band feeding off the vibe of the moment mixed with the magic of improvisation.
Rosali’s vocals can sometimes get lost in all this exquisite murk, which may be the desired effect, but tends to frustrate when compared to the moments where her voice rides above the mix, as on the beautiful ‘Dead and Gone’ and album-closing ‘Maybe I’m Right.’ How distracting that is depends on what you’re looking to get out of Rosali’s music. Overall, ‘Trouble Anyway’ is a journey of consistent beauty; guided by sympathetic musicians that share in the belief that atmospherics and mood can guide the listener to other worlds musically just as much as – if not sometimes more than – a hook, melody, or a beat you can dance to.