Affable, if slightly uneven, soulful Americana.
Six years on from his first EP, one thing is re-confirmed from the get-go on Liverpool-born Rosenblume’s long-awaited debut LP: he has one hell of a voice. On the downside, it’s arguably dubious whether this self-titled album really contains enough consistently striking material to justify a full-length, ten-track production. But albeit with a few notable dips in form, generally Rosenblume’s mixture of soulful pop – or pop-ful soul, you decide – holds up fine, particularly when the singing is so powerful.
Key to it all, then, are Rosenblume’s technically masterful, smoothly delivered vocals, his voice deftly wrapping their way round the lyrics in a highly expressive, versatile way. From the classic, stripped-back-soul introduction on the opening track, ‘Enough To Burn’ all the way through to the delicately drawn light-hearted jazz tones of the curtain-closer, ‘Paint Things Red’, his singing is rightly given full exposure on the album and Rosenblume pulls out every drop of emotion and nuance he can from each composition.
There’s certainly enough of a variety of styles on ‘Rosenblume’ to keep you wondering what’s coming next, with nods towards the better-known strands of classic funk, rock, folk, pop and indie in some extraordinarily well-crafted arrangements. On top of that his band is very much to up to scratch with razor-sharp backing – and again, that’s appreciable right from the gun. Having let his voice go full bore on the opening ‘Enough to Burn’, the song’s arrangement cleverly has both the violin and the saxophone also deliver solos that are long enough to impress, but short enough to make you want to hear more.
So there’s plenty of stylistic power and well-judged formats to this album. What’s maybe more missing, though, from such promising raw materials is a keener sense of time or place in the lyrics of the songs themselves. On a track like the rousing ‘Knight in Shining Armour’, where Rosenblume is contemplating how he feels when a former lover has now found happiness elsewhere, the blurriness around the edges of the narrative doesn’t matter too much. The same thing goes for ‘Name in the Sand’, a finely paced piece of power pop: it’s got enough momentum and twists in the melody to maintain the listener’s interest. But when the tunes are a bit flatter, then this glaring lack of location or detail drains the sense of personal involvement, meaning in turn that the album suddenly gets bogged down in clichés and loses traction. ‘It’ll Be Alright’, where lines as lazy as “it’s always dark before it’s light, it’s always wrong before it’s right” float over some very safe but bland melodies is probably the low point on that score.
‘Halfway There’ is surely the track where the snap and sizzle of the backing band, the sharp funk melody and, of course, Rosenblume’s hugely impressive singing, really pulls the album most effectively away from these patches of slightly clunky predictability. A close second could have been ‘Turn Every Fire’, a heartfelt soul ballad where Rosenblume also provides some impressive vocal fireworks, letting rip in each line of the chorus in a notable contrast with the softly spoken verses. However, the lyrics of ‘Turn Every Fire’ – of the “I’ll be with you every step of the way” variety – are too generically goo-ey and bland to provide more than a momentary connection with the song, no matter how intense that connection is.
As debuts go, then, Rosenblume’s first album is definitely catchy, varied and well-rounded enough to make you want to listen to whatever’s he comes up with next. But it maybe needs a bit more substance to go with its undoubted reams of style to endure in the memory.