Roosevelt – Valley of Stone Review
There’s a little bit of everything in this boiling pot, whether it funk, indie, alt-rock, pop, RnB or hip hop and it all blends into a promising start.
When considering your favourite Roosevelt, it’s usually going to come down to Theodore or Franklin, with poor Eleanor rarely even getting a look-in. As if it wasn’t hard enough to choose, what with Teddy’s exuberant existence as one part President, one part explorer, one part sheriff, one part war hero, one part general-prime-minister-of-manliness, or Frankie’s noteworthy accomplishments like steering America through the depression, getting on board with the Allies during World War 2 to give Hitler a spanking or generally being considered by scholars, and anyone, to be one of the top three American presidents of all time, or Ellie (Frankie’s wife) being generally considered the most badass first lady of all time with her outspoken views, disagreeing with her husband’s own policies and support of the Civil Rights Movement, there comes a fourth Roosevelt.
That was a wholly unnecessary introduction –overwrought, vainly humorous, rambling and riddled with (misinformed) American political history, but whatever. Anyway this Roosevelt are a four piece who have no connection to any of these three or America. In fact they come from the Rhondda valleys in South Wales, which funnily is the same place as I do. Wouldn’t it be a crazy coincidence if we happened to go to school together, or college, or that I was once in a band with one of them? That’d just be silly, I’m a(n) (un)professional music journalist after all.
Anyway, formerly going by the name of Cutting the Beef this four piece had begun to make some waves in the South Wales music scene, but as seems to be the Welsh thing to do (see; Tiger Please-the People the Poet, Cuba Cuba-Safari Gold) it was time for a change. The end of last year saw the end of Cutting the Beef, but rising out of the ashes of that overdone steak was the phoenix of Roosevelt.
Coming hot on the heels of this new beginning is Valley of Stone, their debut EP, that is currently streaming on SoundCloud and available for free download. Valley of Stone comes across as an eclectic experimentation of an EP and is as good a way as any for the band to kick off 2013. Through the course of its six tracks, the EP comprises numerous genres amalgamating in something odd, but something quite different and something enjoyable.
Kryptonite for example starts the EP with acoustic guitars, treated vocals and a quietly middle eastern fuzz of a melody before sampled percussion, beats, loops and synths arrive out of leftfield like a more restrained Skrillex. Why don’t you go to the bathroom next door? comes next on a minimalist hip hop beat but with the twinge of a funky Super Furry Animals in the verse and an alt-rock chorus which leaves you with a kind of Beck inspired whole.
Hyena manages to be one of the more straightforward songs on the EP, in so far as its structure, but it is still focussed on the band’s genre experimentation as its instrumentation leans heavily towards an almost hip hop style production with hints of The XX minimalism, intricate layered synth melodies, treated vocals, cut ‘n’ past technique and repeated hooks. However, it still feels very much like a band song with indie sensibilities. Follow Me, for me, is possibly the strongest song on display here and is the EP’s centrepiece. It takes a slow-burning turn and the result is moodier and broodier with a more modern RnB feel and some great vocal melodies.
Essentially there’s a little bit of everything in this boiling pot, whether it funk, indie, alt-rock, pop, RnB or hip hop. Right down to I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told’s synth strut or tender closing track Do You Love Me Now?’s acoustic country balladry, it’s a usually incompatible mix of genres but somehow here they all sit right and seem altogether compatible. A promising new start, and I swear that cover photo is my back lane from when the world was black and white.