Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Rue Royale: Remedies Ahead... a review

I posted over at Common Folk Music today: a review of Rue Royale's third album, Remedies Ahead.

When I first heard the music of indie band Rue Royale back in 2007, they’d just released their first EP, The Search For Where To Go, which wasn’t an album you could dismiss in a hurry.  Their profound lyrics and spare acoustic sound were a perfect stage for displaying the unusually striking compatibility of their voices and harmonies.

In August, I interviewed Rue Royale’s husband-wife team, Brookln and Ruth Dekker, in anticipation of their September release, third album Remedies Ahead, recorded with the financial help of Kickstarter and a legion of followers.

When the thin white parcel containing our handmade CD dropped through the postbox onto the doormat a few weeks ago, we were just about to leave for a week’s holiday.  In spite of the packing and sorting and excited children and all manner of other craziness going on, I immediately put on Remedies Ahead. And again, and again: through icing two huge chocolate fudge cakes, ticking jobs off my to-do list, and making dinner for yet more people.

Remedies Ahead is just the sort of album that you want to keep listening to over and over.  The melodies are entrancing, with a hint of American West Coast trance-folk-pop finesse.  Beguiling harmonies possess just the right blend of lyrical loveliness and musical perfection.  Rue Royale have matured beautifully; their earlier unadorned sound is gone, but the gorgeous simplicity of gentle beats and harmonies remains, augmented by co-producer Paul Pilot’s electronic influences.  This is a musically strong collection of contradictorily fragile songs, exploring themes of change and dark days in relationships and life, ultimately ending with an upbeat forward-facing decisiveness.

Whispery vocals immediately pull the listener in as the album begins with “Changed My Grip”, an originally folky song that Rue Royale have played live for a while but now recorded with new sounds.  Other stand-outs on the album are first single “Set Out To Discover”, short and sweet love song “Carving Up Islands”, and the lyrically fascinating “Tiny Parcels”: “What if I could gather all the souls in the world, Leave them wrapped like tiny parcels outside your door, Would you let me see the inside of your house…”

One of my favourite tracks is “Pull Me Like a String”, with its gripping refrain “You pull me like a string, you pull me right in two, you put me out to the darkness and pull me back to you, You pull me like a string, you pull me right in two, You cause me to go blind yet I still look for you” describing a figurative dance of emotions that is echoed in the swing of the music and the relentless beat.  Another is “Brought Up Somewhere Else”, with its sense of geographical displacement: “Ancient are these rolling hills, Aged brought up somewhere else”.  I could personally identify with this one, having lived in the UK now for thirteen years as an expat American, similar to Brookln.  I also liked the rhythmic catchiness of honest anthem “Try As They Might”, with it’s memorably repeated line “Try as they might, they cannot get me down”.

“Dark Cloud Canopies”, “Almost Ghostly”, and “Shouldn’t Have Closed My Eyes” are melancholic explorations of feelings and relationships.  “Settle In Settle Down” considers the uncertainty within decisions we have to make as we walk towards the future: “I know it well the feeling, that we’re both circling around, I know the roads that we’re found on are often paved with doubt”.

“Every Little Step” is Remedies Ahead‘s perfect ending: “Working on getting my mind around this road ahead, Can’t go back can’t go backwards”.  This determination to push on in spite of the darkness is what characterises this ultimately positive album.

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