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It’s with a certain amount of steeliness you sit down to listen to a Sarah Mary Chadwick record. Knowing the extent to which you’re about to be broken down, you can’t afford to go in unprepared lest you be torn asunder.
It usually doesn’t work of course; such is her ability to craft emotionally wrenching songs.
It rarely takes take long to find yourself in a turmoil-filled ocean. It’s a notion that particularly stung with Sarah’s previous two albums, Eating For Two and 2015’s 9 Classic Tracks. Now we come to her fourth solo album Roses Always Die.
Hello darkness, my old friend.
Sarah Mary Chadwick’s style isn’t for the feint of heart. Her sombre sound and often dire subject matter is reserved for listeners with a strong resolve, and it’s in this respect that her new album Roses Always Die is incredibly rewarding.
Roses Always Die is a morbid title sure, but also one based in reality and as Sarah remarks on the album, “roses are beautiful for that minute they’re alive”.
It’s an appropriate moniker for a record that is entirely centred around beauty, love, sadness, and pain. The memories, grief, and regret that come with the territory trail like ribbons throughout the runtime.
Somewhat of an extension of 9 Classic Tracks, the new album is perhaps even more lyrically brilliant. Toning down the overall ambience a little, there’s a quiet intensity that has more room to move. This is exemplified by the huge Yamaha analogue organ with built in percussion beats and bass pedal – basically the only accompaniment to Sarah’s voice.
It provides the perfect canvas, remaining a consistently haunting presence in the background as the vocals transfix us. Instead of noticing the music in any overt manner, we meld into its dirge while fixating on the words rolling ever so thickly off Sarah’s tongue.
Surprisingly, the album makes a buoyant and rhythmic beginning with Makin It Work, but it’s not quite enough to disguise the content that we’ll soon be dealing with as Sarah sings “Oh save me, I’m talking now to anyone.”
As with her previous records, the album quickly becomes an examination of torment and, as always, we feel that this is private pain – pain shouldn’t be witness to. Coupled with the steady beats and the eerie organ, Sarah’s music is more relentless than any rock album could ever be.
It makes us feel good about feeling terrible as we are reminded of our own suffering, but comforted by the bravery and honesty in which she approaches hers. Even when mired in sorrow Sarah is clear of thought, stating on The Man and the Flags “feeling bad’s still feeling”.
The stark reality we’re faced with on Roses Always Die is confronting and at times almost unbearable. Deep down, we know it is something we should hear, even if it is dominated by some profound personal introspection.
Rather than wallowing in her feelings, Sarah attempts to process them, explore them and explain them. She’s not afraid to display any of her grief, regret or trauma, even if it includes self-pity.
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That is why this album is so engaging – because despite trying to tell us “it’s theatrics on my part” we know what Sarah says is real, in part because we’ve felt it ourselves but mostly because we can hear the truth in her voice, ringing as clear as our own internal admissions. You know, late at night when there’s no longer any reason to lie to yourself?
Sarah Mary Chadwick’s sound is one you think should become tiresome, but she mesmerises, gnawing into your soul from the first note, trapping you as fiercely as she describes of her own predicament.
Her perpetually cracked voice keeps you flowing through an album that makes you question if it’s one song or ten. The transitions between songs are natural and progressive, playing out like Sarah’s mental analytics in real time, creating a journey that is relatively simple to follow but fills you with unease.
Love is discussed in spades: life’s strangest and darkest double-edged sword. Losing love, or a person you love, by whatever means, is guaranteed to bring something heavy crushing down on your chest. Prepare yourself to experience that feeling in full on Roses Always Die.
With her fourth record, Sarah Mary Chadwick has once again cut straight to the core of her own struggles, and thus our own. Roses Always Die combs the depths of the soyul, a searching record that lays bare tales of grief and memory, love and pain.
It goes without saying, it’s one you should listen to.
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