Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight
At very long last, the seven-piece orchestral-rock-folk-pop heavyweight from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Hey Rosetta!, has just released their fourth full-length studio album, Second Sight. The album is a powerful addition to the ensemble’s already sparkling musical showcase. Indeed, both their 2008 album, Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart and on through your blood), and their 2011 album, Seeds, were shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Produced in Montreal by Marcus Paquin (The National, Local Natives, Stars, Arcade Fire), Second Sight promises only to further the already impressive state of the band’s achievements and accolades.
The album came into existence over a three-year period. During this time, the band strove to create a record which, as front-man and songwriter Tim Baker put it, “let each song come on its own terms and become what it will, unencumbered by some predetermined structure or symbolism or thesis.” This process not only resulted in a more organic and intuitive sound and feel, but also became a metaphor for the powerful and neo-prolific theme that emerged. As Baker describes, one of the album’s central themes is the “idea of shifting your vision slightly—moving away from your everyday, rational, denotative, left-brain way of seeing the world and embracing a more suggestive, intuitive, animalistic and ultimately more interesting ‘second sight.’”
The record starts off with what might be the best-titled song in history, “Soft Offering (For the Oft Suffering).” An uplifting anthem reflecting on the night as a time which promotes our intuitive and animalistic vision and the morning as the destroyer of that sweet, irrational, irresponsible, and crucial sense. As Baker sings, “The long knife of the sun rising/Up the horizon and into our tired eyes/The spell of night is struck down/Our second sight is bleeding out.” A longing for a time, a feeling, and a state of being that tends to find clarity in moments that neither require nor promote it.
The poetic precision of Baker’s lyricism bounces along throughout the preceeding songs, “Gold Teeth” and “Dream,” in a way that almost tricks the listener into digging down to reveal that which only their second sight could see: their true dreams and desires and that great potential within them. Baker’s unique voice, lyrical sensibility, and the band’s ability to write penetrative themes make Hey Rosetta! one of a very select collection of bands putting out what might be described as meaningful (and actually good) pop music.
The album’s single, “Kintsukuroi,” is a prime example of this. The song unfolds like a scene laid out in front of the listener, presenting itself either as a portrait or a memory. The song is named after the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with materials such as gold, silver, and platinum so as to make it stronger than it was prior to being broken (an example of this can be seen in the album’s cover art). The song is about broken love, repaired so as to be more beautiful for having been broken. When it was released, “Kintsukuroi” occupied the number one spot on the CBC Radio 2 Top 30 for about nearly three weeks—a brilliant example of the potential for popularity that a creative, instinctual, and musically complex (the song has two key changes!) framework can provide.
The flow of the album demonstrates a variability that spans from heavy hitting declarations like “Promise” and “Kid Gloves” to subtle, pensive reflections like “What Arrows,” “Alcatraz,” and “Trish’s Song.” Among the more high-reaching songs on the album is “Neon Beyond.” This song begins with a clamour of percussive plosions pushing forward the guitar pickings and Baker’s voice in a way that is particularly reminiscent of Paul Simon. As the song proceeds into the chorus, the listener is plunged into a progression that resembles the feeling one gets when in an elevator that begins to drop. With a bridge that is delightfully Timber Timbre-esque, the listener is brought through a calm forest of thought before being lifted up once again into the clearing. With its clever, upbeat, and dynamic structure, don’t be surprised if we hear this tune a lot more in the upcoming months.
The band’s handwork and dedication to their process truly paid off as it resulted in a glimmering, coherent, revealing, and natural product. The process was one of self-discovery for them but the result is one of self-discovery for us all. It reveals not only a theme or a perspective but also a way of thinking and living. Wouldn’t we all benefit from a shift in perspective and thought so as to reveal that which is true and important in our lives and so as to enable us to fulfill that buried and beautifully bursting potential that resides in us all? As Tim puts it, “I can’t believe it, I think I believe in this.”
The best news of all? Hey Rosetta! is coming to the Grand Theatre in Kingston this February 3rd with Stars (who also recently released a new album). Make sure to look for tickets because these guys can put on a great show.
Second Sight is now streaming on CBC Music’s website:
Tickets for the Grand show on February 3rd:
Andy Gibbons (2L) is a Culture Editor for Juris Diction.
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