[sic] Magazine

Rose Windows – Rose Windows

Self-titling an album is not uncommon for an artist’s début; a band announcing themselves to the world, or maybe unsure if they’ll make another record, or possibly unable to decide on a name. A self-titled second album, however, is unusual. From the outside it seems a bold statement – as if Rose Windows are saying, ‘We know our sound, this is what this band is about.’ So does the record represent a band who has reached its creative peak?

Rose Windows’ début LP, 2013’s The Sun Dogs, was a psychedelic journey from its Seattle birthplace through guitar scales of the Indian Subcontinent, to calming flute interludes of a medieval United Kingdom. Such an array of sounds was combined surprisingly well, resulting in a unique and enchanting record. And all this whilst the real star of Rose Windows, singer Rabia Shaheen Qazi, only really came to the fore during their live shows, the sheer power of her voice somewhat held back on tape.

Rose Windows starts in much the same way, the album’s opening track (of nine, again like its predecessor) is a slow, atmospheric track of vocal harmonies, guitarist Chris Cheveyo taking lead to introduce the album and proclaiming, ‘There ain’t no note that don’t matter’. From here, things do take a different turn. Gone are the aforementioned Indian-influences, and the flute largely takes a back seat, too. Instead, a Hammond organ joins the guitar, bass and drums, adding a spiritual feel to the record, punctuated accordingly with religious-like chants.

With Qazi taking vocal duties from here on in, ‘Glory, Glory’ is a driving rock riff that builds to a booming chorus of blues-rock guitars. ‘Blind’ ambles through pleasantly enough, although without any real hook to grab on to, whilst ‘Strip Mall Babylon’ again begins as a mid-tempo acoustic song, before the drums and guitar crash in for the chorus.

Strangely, Qasi’s voice, undoubtedly one of the most powerful around, doesn’t seem to have the bite to match the harder edge of songs such as ‘…Babylon’ and ‘The Old Crow’, an almost-religious stomp to match the latter’s lyrics (‘Aint no room for Gods in this town’) that leads to a guitar and drums blues riff of a Band of Skulls ilk. Similarly, the slow build-up to the chorus of ‘Aurora Avenue’ certainly spits venom (‘you’re full of shit’), but the track seems to fall short as the melody reaches its crescendo. But before any feelings of anti-climax can take hold, that soothing flute makes a welcome comeback to lead into the song’s coda, and then onto the unexpected treasures that follow.

‘A Pleasure to Burn’ is just that, a pleasure, a return to the mystical folk-y arrangements of The Sun Dogs, Qazi’s voice sounding instantly more comfortable, and providing a reminder of what she does best. ‘I just want to be in love, untroubled,’ she bellows, the sincerity suggesting Qazi’s longing and soul-searching come more naturally than aggression. Along with ‘Come Get Us Again’, album closer ‘Hirami’ again slows the pace and the volume, ending the album with a gentle, hypnotic acoustic guitar and psychedelic swirls. This album may not quite be the defining Rose Windows record that was hoped for, but its closing moments teasingly suggest that they may fully capture their true spirit on the next one….

…or at least it was hoped they could. During the writing of this review, Rose Windows unexpectedly announced they are to finish, just as they were about to begin a live promo tour for its release. If this is to be the final curtain drawn on the career of Rose Windows, we can be grateful for the kaleidoscope of colour, light and reflective beauty they have shone into our collective consciousness.

~Rose Windows is released May 4th 2015 via Sub Pop.~