by Xristopher Bland
As the Canadian indie rock band Hey Rosetta! prepares to celebrate 10 years of making music with a headlining performance on August 7, 2015, at the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, the band recently put out the call on Facebook for fans to “share your favourite moments with us” (#HR10YR), and that took some thinking. As one who always and easily becomes deeply enfolded within the hauntingly poetic sound-scapes and lyrical artwork of a band that layers piano, violin, cello and brass with a traditional rock setup, I basically experience a favorite moment whenever I cue up any HR! track. Yet I suppose my favorite moment is threefold: the first time I heard the opening line “the road bends long like mother’s arms” from “Seeds” (the opening track of the 2011 album by the same name), the immediate knowing that the lyric was something I needed to remember (though to what end, I wasn’t certain at the time) and how that lyric helped me two years later in the little room.
We all know the room, though its appearance differs from person to person. Sometimes, it’s one of those hospital alcoves as starkly lit as the news that often arrives there. Other times, it’s the room outside the other room to which other job applicants have nervously filed. Sometimes, it has no walls, though they nonetheless seem to be there when life seems a dead calm. In all cases, the room is a place of waiting—for the eddies of a relationship to bear out, for the pulse of an original passion to re-ignite, or something else—and music has always lent incredible comfort in this room, from countless relationship-themed songs that tell us we’re not alone to escapist, distracting party anthems. Indeed, when Pharrell Williams released “Happy” in 2013, he pretty much wrote the perfect mantra for peace where one finds oneself. Yet beyond this, there’s been music that transcends the room. When Neil Young sang “Keep on rockin’ in the free world” on his 1989 album “Freedom,” he spoke to personal trust and expression beyond what rooms we may find ourselves in. When Tom Petty sang “And I’m free / free falling” the same year on his album “Full Moon Fever,” he not only spoke to what each of us imagines as freedom but to the faith in giving oneself to it even if the way is unclear. By such transcendent gifts, music has always offered figurative lamps to both illuminate the way from the room and travel along as guide, and “Seeds” became my guide in 2013 when they walked me into a small grey office at TV Guide Canada and informed me that, after 17 years as a writer and EPG specialist, I was no longer needed.
If you’ve never had a similar experience, it’s comparative to trying to hold onto a plate of French fries in a car that’s spinning across a field of ice while the radio plays Looney Tunes music. In other words, in the unreality of it all, there’s little to do but laugh while trying to keep things together, and to my credit, I managed that admirably at first. When they informed me that three other colleagues were being let go because of a sales downturn, I nodded more or less in the right spots to convey how I understood it had nothing to do with my performance. I stayed composed, signed the right papers and even managed to spell my name correctly. Yet when an outplacement agent recommended making a plan as the best course forward, I burst out laughing, not to disparage the agent’s script recitation but because I had made a plan. I’d planned to be awesome at what I did and remain so for years to come—and that plan had shot me spinning across the ice. So after I wobbled down to the street, I decided my plan was to make no plans. I decided instead to stand open to what came, and as I stood staring down Yonge Street to realize just how scary such an unconventional approach felt, it was all suddenly okay. Within my mind, “Seeds” began playing, and I could see that, while the road ahead bent long into the unknown, it bent as mother’s arms, meaning it would welcome me in measure to how I gave myself to it. There was warmth and grace there, and their reach would find me. In that moment, I understood why other writers had described the music of Hey Rosetta! as inexplicable connection, and if I was emboldened by a sense of potential—of taking a second look at things—it was the same lens through which songwriter Tim Baker approached the band’s 2014 album “Second Sight.”
“I’d been thinking about potential, about the great promise within all of us that we never seem to fully realize,” says Baker on the band’s website, “which led to another of the album’s main themes: this 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’,” which I suppose may seem quizzical to certain well-meaning agents of outpatient services... I mean, outplacement services. Yet in seeming full embracement of the contemporary wisdom that “you can’t push the river” (or, force things to happen), Baker likened the making of “Second Sight” as “swimming within the river of modern music,” moving with the flow of things into new and uncharted musical waters, discovering remarkable treasures there and ultimately returning them not only as an album but as evidence of what many already know. Where all things are equal in the world, the exquisite musical and lyrical lens-craft of Hey Rosetta! and “Second Sight” is more than a perfect reflection of growing numbers of people worldwide looking to see and experience life differently and richly. It’s assurance that, on the roads beyond the little rooms and all along the trickling paths toward uncertainty, there’s guidance in the sounds around us and the lamps are always clearer than we may imagine.
To illuminate things for yourself, cue up “Kintsukuroi”, the lead single from “Second Sight,” the song blends the subject of messy love with the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold, thereby rendering a new object of beauty with its flaws highlighted instead of hidden. (watch first video below) Feeling as if life has too many slings and arrows? Say “What Arrows” and strip away chattering illusion in this softly composed video as tender, simple and strong as what you know to be true. (watch second video below)
To share your own favorite Hey Rosetta! moment, visit the band on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/heyrosetta) or Tweet with #HR10YR. Or follow them on Tumblr (http://hrnews.tumblr.com) or Instagram (https://instagram.com/heyrosetta). To order "Second Sight" or for the band’s complete touring schedule, visit heyrosetta.com but stay especially tuned to Hey Rosetta! on Facebook for soon-to-be-announced tour dates across Europe and the UK.