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Album Review: Rosalie Cunningham – Rosalie Cunningham

There is no denying that Purson was one of the most effective acts to come from the occult rock movement. Despite a brief six-year run that only saw the release of two albums and an EP, their approach to the genre proved to be far more inventive and intricate than many of their peers. The band may be overlooked compared to groups like Blood Ceremony or Jex Thoth, but their legacy surely lives on with the release of their frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham’s debut album as a solo artist.

While this album still sits at the crossroad of heavy psych, prog, and pop that defined Purson’s releases, it definitely leans more on the pop side of the equation. The late 60s/early 70s aesthetic is out in full force as a slew of theatrical bombasts and almost saccharinely bouncy tempos come crashing in from just about every corner. The production is clean, the structures are straightforward, and Cunningham’s vocals are sultry yet more in your face than they ever were with Purson. If releases like Desire’s Magic Theatre were tripping out at the Renaissance Faire, then this album is out for a night at the cabaret.

But far from dumbing things down, this style still allows for plenty of complexity. Cunningham’s vocals may be the songs’ focal point but there’s an array of various keyboards, guitars, horns, and more on display. A clean mix allows every instrument to stand out and a vibrant production job makes everything sound warm and reassuring even during the most out-there sequences. Comparisons to Queen, ELO or The Beatles are easy to make, especially as the closing “A Yarn from the Wheel” presents a Faustian series of Abbey Road-style vignettes over its thirteen-minute runtime.

Above all, this album is all about delivering catchy hooks across a variety of moods. “Ride on My Bike” is an engaging opener with stoner-friendly guitar fuzz weaving throughout that somehow never gets in the way of the “Penny Lane”-style whimsy. “Fuck Love” keeps the momentum going quite nicely thanks to its particularly theatrical bent. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “House of the Glass Red” and “Nobody Hears” pair dreamy vocal layering with more relaxed beats.

Overall, Rosalie Cunningham’s full-length debut is the sort of album that could appeal to just about any type of music listener. Fans of heavy psych and old school prog are instant shoo-ins on stylistic basis alone, but the emphasis on lush arrangements and snappy hooks can make it just as alluring to the audiences of Kate Bush or Weyes Blood. It may feature a lot of the core concepts that defined Cunningham’s work with Purson, but it puts them toward vastly different ends and potentially toward an even broader audience. I was sadly too late to hop on the Purson bandwagon while it was still running but I’m excited to see where this one goes from here.

Highlights:
“Ride on My Bike”
“Fuck Love”
“House of the Glass Red”
“A Yarn from the Wheel”

Editor Grade

A

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