Sunday, 27 November 2016

Album Review: Doghouse Roses - 'Lost Is Not Losing'

I confess, I had not even heard of the Doghouse Roses until I was sent this album, but I was immediately drawn in by the sleek and minimalistic cover art as well as, upon reading their biography, an apparent genre-defining style of music. I eagerly put the CD on to see if their music was similarly impressive, and Pour opened up the album with a dark ballad more reminiscent of The Civil Wars than of the Bert Jansch inspirations that they profess to. It works though, before the style shifts to a fingerpicked guitar that feels lighter and more optimistic for To Decide. There are clearly solo singer-songwriter influences at play with this one, and it would not sound out of place on an indie-arthouse film. Feed The Monster then continues to show off a finger picking ability, whilst definitively showing off their proclaimed mantra of being “political, without overt protest”. 

The Whistle Song is slightly more punchy, and it is nice to hear a mandolin in the mix there too, although perhaps a little more country than folk, in a style that could perhaps be a stripped down version of bluegrass. I still cannot help but compare them to The Civil Wars by this point, though perhaps that is not necessarily a bad thing; the music is certainly a lot more developed and draws on a wider range of themes, although I do noticeably miss having a booklet of information in the physical packaging; it would be nice to have a means of finding out a bit more about the inspiration behind each song.

I am immediately drawn to the sudden diversity of Weather The Storm, and its very rocking electric guitar and drum setup. Just five songs in, I am impressed at the range of musical styles that Macdonald and Tasker have managed to draw into their mix, and that makes me eager in my anticipation to hear what else they have in store. Nearing the midpoint of the album now is probably the most dangerous time for this; it is always disappointing to find an album with a very diverse first half where the second half all sounds the same, but so far Doghouse Roses have managed to impress.

I appreciate the subtle harmonica writing in Fairground, in an innovative way of using the instrument that reminds me of a Phillip Henry piece instead of the shrill monotonous drones that are usually drawn from it as an accompaniment to a guitar. Country overtones abound in Crooked Life, but it is slightly overshadowed somewhat by the calmer After Sun, which radiates a pleasant atmosphere and feels like exactly the kind of song that commands an audience to stop whatever else they are doing and just listen to it. Diesel Engine, on the other hand, reverts back to the earlier country style which, by this point on the album, seems a little bit misplaced; perhaps it would have been better earlier on in the album, but it remains a catchy piece. It is short, at less than three minutes just like a lot of the others on the album, but I expect this would work in its favour for mainstream radio play. 

New Year Rag is a simple and understated way to start bringing the album to a close, but actually I quite like it. I can imagine it working well live, though I feel like I should be listening to it much later in the day than it is when I currently write this! Days Of Grass And Sun, then, rounds the work off by bringing back a few of the earlier themes and musical styles. I am here left a little in the lurch: I did much prefer the first few songs to the last few, and perhaps elements of the album are a little too simplistic musically. Overall though, for a duo I had not heard of before receiving this album, I confess myself modestly impressed, and look forward to hearing where Macdonald and Tasker go next with their music. Whilst a lot of the things on the album are not the sort of things I would normally choose to listen to, I found myself rather enjoying it overall, and I look forward to hearing more from Doghouse Roses in the future.

Facebook: /doghouseroses
Twitter: @DoghouseRoses 

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