Rosie Thomas If Songs Could Be Held

[Sub Pop; 2005]

Styles: singer/songwriter, indie folk
Others: Joni Mitchell, Damien Jurado, Mark Lanegan

When Rosie Thomas isn't careening through adorable acoustic songs, she's a stand-up comic. Her alter ego is named Sheila. This, along with her previous album title (Only With Laughter Can You Win), leads us to believe comedy plays an important role in her artistic existence. On her latest musical venture, If Songs Could Be Held, we find her music is no laughing matter. No chuckles, giggles, cackles, or guffaws.

As Rosie Thomas grows older, it seems her main struggle remains in the department of love. Her songs reflect her frustration, lost and rediscovered hope, and desire to find companionship and reliability. The songs on this album are full of remorse and regret, as well as a shot or two of encouragement. Thomas, through her simple and clean arrangements, aims to make sense of her problematic relations. As she presses on, trying to keep cheerful, we think back to Sheila. A sad clown situation comes to mind. The victims in Rosie Thomas' songs are pained but try to mask grief with unconvincing hope. Her vulnerability pries through the gentle instrumentation and gains our sympathy.

Unlike her labelmate Sam Beam, Rosie Thomas suffers from a lack of mysticism, folklore, and grit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; but her safe approach and noble pursuits of happiness may keep her in the coffee house. There is obviously something deeper brewing here. Behind the funny girl and simple, cozy-sweater ballads, there must be some sort of filth or corruption. Granted, Thomas does handle her songs well -- the nursery rhyme innocence of "Pretty Dress" and the airy rendition of "Let It Be Me" are both intriguing and captivating. But with the bare bones approach of song and singer, there must always be an additional "something." An error, a secret, a myth. Rosie Thomas is just a little too ordinary, despite her concealed alter ago.

1. Since You've Been Around
2. Pretty Dress
3. Loose Ends
4. It Don't Matter To The Sun
5. Guess It May
6. Let It Be Me
7. Clear As A Bell
8. Say What You Want
9. Time Goes Away
10. Death Came And Got Me
11. Tomorrow

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