Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rozi Plain 'Friend' (ALBUM & LIVE REVIEW)

Winchester doesn’t really strike you as a destination that boasts a rich rock and roll history, in fact one has to visit a certain search engine to find out more of the city’s pop notables. Blazing the trail albeit via a stay in Bristol is free-spirited singer-songwriter Rozi Plain, back with a new release on Lost Map Records entitled ‘Friend’, a personification of unhurried quirky introspection with indietronic overtones. Rozi has made plenty of friends along the way to her third, and it has to be said pretty fab album, some of whom have contributed to the dreamy chilled-out vibe on the ten songs.

Lead-off single ‘Jogalong’, an urbane amalgamation of lo-fi, breathless pixie vocal and sci-fi synth, introduced to an unsuspecting public last autumn, managing to burrow its way under the skin of some very influential BBC radio bods, most notably Jo Whiley despite only being put-out as a split single. Second release ‘Actually’ has fared no less well, winning a rebel playlist on BBC6 Music as a hip swivelling rootsy groove is interspersed with more hook laden Radio Shack keyboard, a beguiling blend of perhaps Suzanne Vega, Lonely Drifter Karen, St Etienne and Stereolab. What’s also apparent is how the downcast lyrical content belies the fleet footed musical accompaniment. Collaborators are also aplenty here, not surprisingly her This is the Kit bandmates Kate Stables and Jamie Coles, with other notable inclusions including no less than Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip.

‘Best Breeze’ drifts by at a leisurely pace, and you can easily imagine yourself staring wistfully out of a Metropolitan Line tube window, heading home through suburbia on a summer’s evening whilst listening to this lovely little nugget. Pick of the lot though is the next song ‘Five Beans’, minimal drum machine waltzing around nagging guitar and video game electronica, all wrapping themselves around a delightful chorus beautifully warmed up by brass that surprises and delights in equal measure….it really is that good.

Near title track ‘Friend City’ adds global twists, ramping up the guitar factor to great effect whereas the languid ‘Quarry’ retains the slightly worldly feel, (this time Oriental) simultaneously introducing a soothing clarinet to help the medicine go down. ‘Rearrange’ builds elegantly throughout, perhaps having the feel of an album closer as yet again Rozi throws the rulebook out of the window. ‘Tap to the Chest’ takes on a deliciously otherworldly hue before penultimate number ‘Red Dot’ is where Rozi’s heart finally appears on her sleeve, the emotional fragility there for all to see as we drift to a close with the hauntingly austere ‘Yard’, a fitting end to an achingly beautiful set of songs.

(Live Review - Brudenell, Leeds - March 10th)

Unsurprisingly for Rozi the live dates are plentiful, stretching out well into the festival circuit and beyond, warming up with a bunch of shows supporting her fellow bandmates in the similarly splendid ‘This is the Kit’ who’ve also a new long-player about to hit the shelves. Rozi has toured solo all over the world and luckily for me she happened to pass through Brudenell, where I managed to catch both her solo and ‘Kit’ live sets, the first time I’ve seen two acts whose performances are interspersed by the same band members simply swapping places. 

As supporting act we only get half a dozen songs in Rozi’s set, drawing heavily from the excellent new material as we hear ‘Actually’, the video for which Rozi informs us, includes her parents, along with ‘Friend City’ and ‘Rearrange’. It’s great to see her beautifully constructed songs come across so well in the live environment as they do on the recording, despite the more sparse arrangements of a four piece live band in standard formation minus the electronica so prevalent on the album. The Brudenell audience, perennial arbiters of good taste the world over agree, showing their appreciation before everyone on stage switches for the main event. One of the finds of the year.

Words - Mike Price

Additional live dates later this year include York Basement (April 29), Wakefield Long Division Festival (June 13), Deer Shed Festival (July 26)

Rozi Plain Official

Friend is released through Lost Map Records on May 4th