South London’s Roxanne Tataei, aka Rox, caused a bit of a stir when she was signed by Rough Trade towards the end of 2008. More known in recent years for signing guitar bands such as The Libertines and The Strokes, it was seen by many as a slightly odd decision to sign a soul artist whose songs cater very directly for a Radio 2 demographic.
Whatever the reasons, Rox went on to appear on numerous lists proclaiming her to be one of 2010’s ones to watch and an early appearance on Later… With Jools Holland cemented her credentials as a hot tip. Although her last single peaked at Number 91 in the UK, a sold-out tour and appearances on stage with Paul Weller and Grace Jones have kept the buzz alive.
Listening to Memoirs, it’s hard to imagine how she’ll remain out of the higher reaches of the charts for much longer. Co-produced by Commissioner Gordon (of Lauryn Hill rather than Batman fame) and Al Shux (he who produced Empire State Of Mind), it’s a polished, classy affair with at least five songs destined to be singles. Opener No Going Back, for example, begins in a similar way to Madonna‘s Like A Prayer but soon morphs into a delicious old-skool ballad, complete with a chorus that practically bursts with emotion.
It’s a gorgeous start and one that’s maintained throughout the first half. Page Unfolds is a bitter break-up song that builds to an almighty crescendo, Do As I Say is a stately ballad akin to Norah Jones and the recent singles I Don’t Believe and My Baby Left Me both sound fresh.
Unfortunately as the album progresses, lyrical shortfalls become too apparent. Rox may have called this album Memoirs, but all too often the songs reveal nothing more than cliches. Too many times she allows her influences to overpower her and any sense of Rox, the artist, is lost. Heart Ran Dry is an India.Arie song in all but name, Breakfast In Bed is too close to Lauryn Hill for comfort and Precious Moments steals the melody from Burt Bacharach‘s Magic Moments, bringing to mind that bloody Quality Street advert.
Strange allusions aside, Memoirs is a good debut album that deserves wider attention. Though parts are relatively anodyne, lacking a certain something, there are moments where she transcends her inspirations and starts to sound like the genuine article. It’s during these moments that you understand what Rough Trade saw in her.