Double Roses has been a slow birth. For nearly seven years after her Jack White-produced debut, Karen Elson struggled to find time to write and record new tracks what with being a mother of two young children. However, she persevered and this collection of Southern Gothic-flecked ditties broods with a similar intensity to her debut. Features a slew of big-name collaborators including Laura Marling and Father John Misty.
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Press sheet alert: everyone ever is on this album. Literally all of the folkies are helping Karen Elson out: someone from Bright Eyes, a random from Wilco, Laura Marling, that fucking Father John Misty (he’s not even a real father)... just a whole lot of pastoral mumble buds hanging out on one album. Melodic nepotism. At the centre is a very good songwriter who works her way, with great patience, towards wonderfully cosy folk rock songs.
Elson opens the record on “Wonderblind” with a majestic slice of harp existentialism, musing on what it’s like to feel lost, navigating the busy band around her with a lucid vocal that makes everything feel clean and organised. “Double Roses” uses harp arpeggios, acoustic strums, glaring synth chords and country to create the same feeling of settled bustle -- simply by setting a slow pace and measuring her song the right way, she makes the song feel as simply as can be. The song breaks out into a bridge of harpsichord, if you can believe it -- the audacity of such a surreal move feels like the work of a countrified Molly Nillson, but even more impressive is how Elson brings it back into the song’s warm, comfortable vibe.
It’s a phenomenally moody record, and it feels like I’m always finding myself grooving with it: the lounge rhythm and nylon strums of “Hell and Highwater” are what I notice first, and the lullabying keys and soaring strings of “Raven” let the listener soak in atmosphere. It’d be hard not to take a liking to it simply because Elson’s excellent arrangements are so tailored for the ear: it’s extremely pretty music with a constantly involving pulse.
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