Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rose Hill Drive - Americana

Every now and then, an album comes along that reminds me exactly why I love music so much.  You know, an album that you can't bear to stop once you've hit play, and once you get to the end, you just have to hear it all again.

Rose Hill Drive's new album Americana is one such album.

Ironically, it almost never happened.  The band from Boulder, Colorado went on hiatus in late 2008 after a relentless schedule that included a ton of touring, recording two albums - 2006's self-titled debut and 2008's Moon is the New Earth - and the pressure of living up to a ton of industry hype from the likes of Rolling Stone.  As much as the band was deserving of endorsements from the likes of Pete Townshend, the classic rock influences were both the band's biggest strength and their achilles heel - musically, the band spent so much time trying to emulate their heroes that they were in danger of losing their own sound.

So it was a promising sign when, not only did RHD re-emerge in June 2010, but they did so with a new member and a line-up reshuffle.  The addition of Jimmy Stofer on bass has allowed Jacob Sproul to move to rhythm guitar, and turned the power trio into a quartet.  More importantly, it's allowed RHD to develop their own sound and god damn is it good.

Don't get me wrong here - their first two albums were a blast, but Americana is something else.  The thing that immediately struck me about it is simply the sheer exuberance - RHD really sound like a band with a new lease of life, a band that is having fun.

You can hear it in the rock-out moments... you can just imagine the band grinning at each other as they cheekily hold the last note of the riff when Telepathic gets all low-slung and riffy about 3 minutes in.  You can hear it lyrically as Jacob Sproul places his tongue firmly in his cheek on Speed Dial - "You used to be number 1... now you're number 2.  You've never met 3, but 4 says she knows you.".  You can hear it in the zany guitar solos from brother Daniel, particularly on Psychoanalyst, which sounds just as madcap as the song's video looks.

But even with all that raw exuberance, Americana is also surprisingly clever.  The songs frequently keep the listener guessing, taking unexpected twists and turns - as does the album itself.  In contrast to the gleeful electric mayhem that populates most of the record, the last two tracks are acoustically led and thoughtfully constructed.  For every vocal LOL moment like Speed Dial, there's a wry, acerbic jab - like on the title track: "If it's real I don't care if it's plastic".

And yeah, the classic rock influences are still audible, and there might be shades of Jack White in some of the guitar solos, but fundamentally the way RHD sound on this album is refreshing, original and entirely unique. 

In a nutshell, Americana is a rambunctious, clever and frequently exhilarating slice of rock music that begs repeat use of the repeat button.  I won't be at all surprised if this ends up being my favourite album of 2011.  It's just too much fun.

Note: for the next little while, you can listen to the whole thing here courtesy of AOL's listening party.

No comments: