Blue Roses: Blue Roses (Beggars/XL) 

If Tori Amos stole Harriet Wheeler's larynx and used it to make a baroque folk album with Rufus Wainwright's cabaret sensibility, you'd get Blue Roses, the eponymous debut of Yorkshire vocalist/guitarist Laura Groves.

To call this atmospheric would be a vast understatement. At times, it's so overly lush and steeped in theatrics that you'll be dragged—like it or not—into a weird liminal space between a pagan woodland and a Victorian symphony hall.

When it's beautiful—and it often is—Blue Roses is exquisite. "I Am Leaving" is a standout, from the synth-layered intro to the toy-music-box fuzz that underscores the chorus. Groves sings, "Oh soulless city / Your changing skyline is twisting me up inside," and that contrast of urbanity with her pastoral aesthetic is lovely.

"I Wish I ..." is a weak spot, with ponderous piano and joyless strings. Groves has spoken about her love of sad songs—Joni Mitchell's Blue is a vital reference point—but the affectation of some of these songs garbles the melancholia.

Groves is best when she's not self-consciously ethereal and gives in to the plaintive, singing-your-heart-out impulse that motivates the best folk artists, like on "Coast," where she yearns to take a sea voyage "as the storm builds."

This is the kind of record that demands a suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy. If you want to be entirely consumed in a rococo fairyland, then break out the absinthe, light up your candelabra and put on Blue Roses.

More by Sean Bottai


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