Why Hey Rosetta! should win the Polaris Prize

Photo credit: Jill Willcott

by Laura Stanley

It used to be so important to have a record – beginning to end – to be great. You look at albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, or the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and they’re a collective unit, evolving, telling a story with each song’s progression.

Now, in such a digital age, it seems that all you need is one or two “hot” singles and you’ve made it. What Hey Rosetta! has done with their 2011 Polaris Music Prize nominated record Seeds, is return to the necessary collectivity of an album.

With three masterful albums, Plan Your Escape (2006), previously Polaris Prize nominated Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart, and on through your blood) (2008), and Seeds, Hey Rosetta! has received praise and success from both the public and critics alike but after such brilliant recordings it’s surprising that their popularity is not much more, leaving them one of the most underrated bands in Canada.

Like its two predecessors, Seeds embodies the passionate, energetic, and unique brand of rock that Hey Rosetta! is all about. Incorporating violins and cellos with the typical four-piece rock band, collectively, Tim Baker (vocals, guitar), Josh Ward (bass, backing vocals), Adam Hogan (lead guitar), Phil Maloney (drums), Kinley Dowling (violin), and Romesh Thavanathan (cello), and with Baker’s now evolved lyricism, is more than ready to earn the prize they deserve.

In reference to the recurring themes of renewal and springtime which are found throughout Seeds, Baker says that, “The songs are seeds. They have the ability to grow in your brain and be far more meaningful than just what they are.” (Appropriately, if you were lucky enough, your copy of the record included a small package of seeds to plant.)

Starting with the title track, “Seeds,” a song about being on the road, the album begins its journey, one that will take you through both the literal and physical ups and downs in life. The album continues to its first single, the anthem-like, “Yer Spring.” With a strong spirit, complex arrangement, all propelled forward by Maloney’s percussion section, “Yer Spring” is one of the standout tracks from the album.

Inspired by J.D. Salinger’s character Franny Glass from his short story compilation Franny and Zooey (please go read it), “Young Glass” is Baker’s letter to the character. Like “Young Glass,” “New Sum (Nous Sommes)” and in the later track, “Welcome,” Baker is able to take on a specific subject or a person and tell a story with such a high level of creativity and poise.

Like most songs from Seeds, “Seventeen” and “Parson Brown (Upirngaangutuq Iqalunni),” a song inspired by the band’s tour of the Arctic, builds from a quiet introduction into a powerful and uplifting rock track, all ending with this sense of fulfilment or, in the case of “Parson Brown,” a fit of giggles.

Previously featured on the band’s 2010 EP, Red Songs, “Bandages,” in a new re-recorded form, ends the album on is a quiet, simple, and heartfelt note.

With every listen of Hey Rosetta!’s Seeds, there is continually something new to find. Maybe you’ll hear a melody that stick in your head, an intricate arrangement that leaves you breathless, or a turn of phrase you fall in love with. Whatever it is, Hey Rosetta! is ready for their Polaris Prize and Seeds is the perfect album to honour.

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