Songcraft and intricate wordplay wrapped in one melodic package.
‘Constancy’ is the latest record from Lawrence, Kansas-based five-piece The Roseline. Main songwriter Colin Halliburton notes the title of the record reflects “stubborn perseverance. I think good things can come from the simple act of just showing up over and over again” – though one suspects many artists can ‘just turn up’, but they probably won’t come close to anything as artistically satisfying as what lies within this album’s tracks.
Musically, there’s a sort of indie-folk-americana feel at times, but also touches of west coast country-rock and retro-pop. The band sound honed yet effortless, polished yet natural; the music is so easygoing that its hooks and rhythms wrap around you on first hearing, and continue to weave a stronger web with each successive listen. Meanwhile, Halliburton possesses the soft voice of a friend or confidant sharing the trials and tribulations of life, and cheering on its small successes.
A real highlight is opening single ‘Hunker Down’, a recollection of all the stresses engendered by living fast when young, but moving to a truly poignant realisation of the advantages of getting older and finding simpler joys…“Now all I wanna do is mostly nothin’, Hunker down with you and try to tame / All my peccadilloes and bad habits — lay ‘em to waste”. It is cloaked in music of the utmost ease and grace, like the Jayhawks at their most melodic; the chorus worms into your ear and won’t leave, while it culminates in a perfectly simple, but simply perfect, musical drop out towards the end. Heavenly.
There really are no missteps on the record at all. Songs gradually reveal their charms, and it’s likely favourite tracks will vary over time. For example, ‘Catalpa’ is simply gorgeous musically, chiming and stately, another reflection on moving into adulthood and leaving behind childish things –“We heard some college kids on their balcony/ Vapor cigarettes and yelling epithets/ Making lists of girls they ain’t conquered yet / Some may ache for youth, (you) Couldn’t pay me to go back”.
‘Paper Planes’, meanwhile, sounds like a heady mix of prime period Belle and Sebastian coupled with a Tom Petty chorus. It is the story of a woman finding her way, despite her own worst efforts to undermine herself. The writing is like a short story, so full of small detail, it’s heartbreaking in its descriptions: “She’s unsatisfied, but too proud to admit it”; “She has a boyfriend to pass the time, he’s a nice-enough mechanic”; “if she never really tries, she can’t be humiliated”. The story unfolds and appears to head for a happy ending, but even that has an uncertainty in its final moments, as if to suggest that for some, the American Dream, or any other dream, may be always just a little out of reach. Masterful.
The icing on the cake throughout comes with Halliburton’s lyrics. By turns conversational, poetic, ambitious, angry, kind, reassuring, questioning and so much more, this record is a lyrical tour-de-force that nonetheless wears its brilliance lightly. It will take many listens for all the subtexts and beauty of the words to reveal themselves, but the music ensures that the effort is no chore. Bravo, the Roseline. ‘Constancy’ is a great achievement and a wonderful record.