Let’s get this straight – Blue Roses (aka singer-songwriter Laura Groves) is in possession of a ‘voice’.
And not just a pretty voice, not even just a strong voice – but a voice with a remarkable, unique quality which may have warranted legions of favourable Kate Bush comparisons, but ultimately means Laura transcends them.
In today’s overcrowded British female singer-songwriter market, where Kate Bush comparisons are bandied about willy-nilly, and have almost become lazy journalistic short-hand for ‘Female singer-songwriter, looks slightly bonkers’, Laura is a misfit – she has none of Florence Welch’s embarrassing histrionics, none of La Roux’s trashy futurisms, or any of Natasha Khan’s art house glamour – instead she has embodied the earthy, demure appeal of a wounded Bronte heroine, each of her songs possessing a swooning, gauzy romanticism reminiscent of a female Chris Garneau, or Soap&Skin at her most complacent.
The EP opens on the title track; the delicate ‘Does Anyone Love Me Now?’ which introduces a gentle, undulating guitar motif before spiralling off into flurries of dizzying whimsy, Laura’s steady, increasingly strident vocals balancing themselves atop the waves of the gently building, waltz-time melody. ‘Does Anyone Love Me Now?’ was always one of the more immediate tracks from Laura’s self-titled – and although there’s nothing as prosaic as a chorus, the instantly recognisable “woah-woah-woah” refrain grounds the track, and lets Laura experiment with different orchestral textures – such as the clickety-clack percussion and buoyant handclaps that introduce themselves near the end of the track, or the twinkling harp that strings itself over Laura’s plaintive cries of “Two nights in a row, I didn’t see the moon hanging in the sky!”
Next up is a live version of ‘Doubtful Comforts’- also taken off Laura’s self-titled – surprisingly, with Leeds-based indie rock band Grammatics. However, Laura hasn’t quite ripped off her petticoat and swathed herself in leather just yet – the live version stays strictly faithful to soft guitar chords and kitsch cowbells of the original – the only difference is that Grammatic’s lead singer Owen Brinley chimes in for the second half of the song. As a duo, Laura and Owen work well together – Owen’s fervent yelps contrast nicely with Laura’s flouncing, feminine trill – although if I could have chosen Laura’s duet partner (I wish!), I would have went for someone with a highly masculine voice – like Bill Callahan or Zach Cordon – to heighten the concurrence between the bellowing male voice and Laura’s high, girlish quaver.
The third and final track is a cover of blues singer Irma Thomas’s ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)’. On this track, Blue Roses manages to sound exactly – and I mean exactly – like St. Vincent. The combination of the pounding drumbeat, ghostly, sixties-inspired harmonies and whirring background synths makes Thomas’s classic sound exactly like an outtake from ‘Actor’ – and although Blue Roses may not have exactly put her original spin on it, the transition from soul standard to wonky pop song is remarkable.
Although the quality of material on ‘Does Anyone Love Me Now?’ is remarkable, at only three tracks long – and none of them new material – this is a slim release, even for an EP, and essential only for hardcore Blue Roses fans. For new listeners, I’d suggest picking up a copy of her fantastic debut self-titled album, if you want to get more ethereal prettiness for your pennies.