Albums of subtle, gentle songs are a hard pitch. Loud, confident songs are much easier to replicate on record; how do you transfer the intricacies and breathless calm of songs like this collection by The Rosie Taylor Project over to a 40 minute album? Their live shows are a delight, but here Jonny Davis and co have tried and failed, and with a couple of exceptions their second album passes by almost unnoticed.
It’s taken the London-via-Leeds six-piece nearly four years to follow up 2008′s This City Draws Maps. At the time, when the indie-folk scene was at its peak, they were likened to Kings Of Convenience and Iron And Wine, but their debut made little impact. Meanwhile, their contemporaries went on to mark their place at the top of the pile. Twin Beds is more of the same – gentle, lilting acoustic guitars, rousing trumpets and kitchen sink romance – but without any real bite.
Davis’s vocals take centre stage; fragile and well-pronounced, he calls Belle & Sebastian‘s Stuart Murdoch in voice as well as mind. For Esme is a rolling mini-drama that could have been written by a young Murdoch. Well crafted and neat, with bursts of trumpet to lift it, Davis, perhaps knowingly, claims: “I love you world, But there’s more to life than love,” before continuing with an album almost solidly about love.
Single Sleep is their best musical accomplishment; as Davis muses: “I’m the tongue in your French kiss… I’m the twin beds that we pushed together,” a dewy, delicately arranged foot-stomping accompaniment unusually takes priority, pushing Davis aside to lead the song. If they wrote more songs like this they’d be nipping at the ankles of those who’ve overtaken them in the years between their album releases. It has echoes of Camera Obscura – it’s bouncy and melodic, but not at the expense of their subtle, muted sound and it’s easily the best thing they’ve recorded.
Lovers Or Something Like That, released as a single some 18 months ago, is a trumpeting lullaby interspersed with shuffling indie-pop guitars. They buck their trend with Gloria, which looks to Jeffrey Lewis‘s swift, spoken-word approach. Davis’s tumbling verse, on a bed of gentle acoustic guitars, establishes them as a band more interested in words than sounds.
Elsewhere the songs float by quite nicely, often threatening to burst into an epic, orchestral hum of emotion… and never quite managing it. The ingredients are there, but the recipe’s not quite right yet.