The songs of Rose Melberg, from the world to Vancouver
Peter's confession is completely indicative of the huge shift in the emotional tenor of responses I received once entering Softies territory--Melberg's duo with Jen Sbragia formed on the heels of the break-up of Tiger Trap.
David Greenwald follows Melberg's work in his LA-based Rawkblog, and the conclusion to his excellent retrospective of The Softies for Coke Machine Glow would resonate with any fan. "If you've ever felt the rollercoaster of emotion that love always seems to inspire, The Softies could be the soundtrack to your loneliest winter nights and happiest summer afternoons." He wrote to me about "Charms Around Your Wrist" from The Softies' second album, "It's Love".
I first heard Rose Melberg totally by chance. iTunes had just been released for PCs, a big deal in 2003, and my message board at the time was geeking out about it. Someone pointed us toward an indie-pop radio station iTunes was streaming at the precise moment the Softies' "Charms Around Your Wrist" started playing. I'd never heard anything like it. Jen Sbragia's lead guitar was as gentle and graceful as a kitten tip-toeing over its sleeping owner, while Rose Melberg's voice -- confident but vulnerable and colored with an impossibly subtle range of emotions -- was Rose Melberg's voice. I was in love within seconds. I spent the rest of college falling asleep to "It's Love" and never looked back.
The Softies (photo by Curt Doughty)
Likewise, Rolling Stone contributing editor Rob Sheffield continues to be a passionate supporter, covering every inch of Melberg's work in his Pop Life blog. He sent me this moving piece about "The Best Days".
It’s hard to pick a favorite Rose Melberg song, but my favorite has to be “The Best Days,” from the album Winter Pageant, which the Softies released in 1997, one of my most-played albums ever. 12 songs on this album, 10 of them sad, so it’s misleading for me to choose one of the 2 happy ones (the other is “Excellent”) but “The Best Days” sounds almost like you sat down on a train behind this couple who think they’re alone and she’s already in the middle of telling a story. “I wanted to see boats” is such a great opening line--there’s no explanation, because that’s just where the story starts, and it’s part of this couple’s private language.
I guess nothing happens in this song, but that’s why it really resonates--it sounds like two people sharing a good day, which will not be all that different from the previous day or the next. There’s no corny climax to the story at all; it’s just a blessedly ordinary day for her, and the melody is just there to give her something to hang the memory on, to make sure the memory doesn’t fade away. And thanks to that melody I haven’t forgotten this memory either. What an amazing thing to give the world songs like this.
It's my favorite because it's sweet, but there's also a melancholy undertone. The chord changes are pretty different from most pop songs, and I would expect them more from a 40's crooner love song than from a 90s "twee" song. Lyrically, the perspective is mysterious. It's hard to tell what real-world situation could possibly fit closely to what's being described. But whatever it is, it's bittersweet, like every other aspect of the song. The mystery, the melancholy, and the melody are what draw me in and what caused me to wear out my 45 of this song.
And then this incredibly sweet testimonial from Alex, whose "7even Inches" blog comes out of Madrid, Spain. He picked a song by Go Sailor, Melberg's rockin'--and still active--band with bassist Paul Curran and Amy Linton on drums. He writes about "Bigger Than An Ocean".
Listening to Rose Melberg's voice is perhaps one of the best things that could have happened to me. She sings like no other girl in the indiepop scene. Her sweet voice made me cry when singing with The Softies, but I can't think of better moments than the ones I enjoyed listening to the Go Sailor eps and particularly 'Bigger than an ocean'. It's the perfect balance between the fragility of The Softies songs and the forcefulness of Tiger Trap ones. This song is bright and lively and listening to it it's impossible not to be in a good mood.
Go Sailor, February 2010 (photo courtesy of Lookout Records)