Roger Harvey

Twelve Houses

Written by: LF on 29/12/2015 12:54:16

Before the Pennsylvanian punk-inspired singer-songwriter Roger Harvey played a show in Denmark earlier this year as support for Against Me!, I was not familiar with his music at all, but his performance turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I have since forgiven myself for my ignorance, as his debut album had actually not come out yet at the time. When it finally did in October, I, of course, had certain expectations for it, and I’m happy to say that it does live up to them for the most part.

Through the ten tracks that comprise "Twelve Houses", Harvey shapes a certain melancholic but playful indie rock world through a sound with lots of distorted guitars that are contrasted smoothly by warm horns and atmospheric piano. The very first song builds this up wonderfully and also succeeds in etching itself into your brain, as Harvey’s heavily filtered voice pulls us in by his careful singing of the oddly compelling words: "One night as an astronaut can redefine your life". His voice quivers in the soundscape in a vulnerable way that should sound familiar to any fan of Bright Eyes or Conor Oberst while the music that backs him recalls a cult band like Neutral Milk Hotel. Simple yet mystifying storytelling lyrics populate each song and mostly they are accompanied by cute and catchy melodies. An early highlight in this regard is the noisy “City Deer” which has several lines in both verse and chorus that will echo in your brain for days as soon as the song has gotten under your skin.

Some of the songs here give off more definite folk vibes than the rest, most notably "Arrow/Plane" with its noticeable ¾-waltz rhythm and relatively simple and calm instrumentation. The repetitive "Halloween" is also a highlight on its own as it stings you with the lines: "How many times can the human heart break / Before it feels forced / Before it feels fake". Harvey has an impressive talent for very concise songwriting even in his more spacey songs like "Lovers Can Be Monsters", where the fuzzy guitars get lots of room to space out in. The album ender, "Psychedelic Dogs", is also a brilliant example of this, and it somehow picks up where "One Night as an Astronaut" left off and builds the soundscape even further until it bursts and the album, somewhat unceremoniously, is over.

Admittedly, not every single song here stays with you after you’ve listened through the album but the overall mood of it certainly makes an impression. At the same time, it has more than enough great songs to be a worthwhile listen for anyone who’s interested enough to pick it up and give it a chance, and for fans of the already mentioned similar acts, it’s sure to have a certain appeal.

Download: City Deer, One Night as an Astronaut, Arrow/Plane, Psychedelic Dogs
For The Fans Of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith

Release date 09.10.2015
Black Numbers

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