Reviewed by Jack Derricourt
A recent piece of analysis by the Economist promises to debunk all the myths surrounding the younger members of society. Oh yes, the entitled generation that never gets up off the couch? Yeah, the truth is somewhat more complicated than most trashy journalism is willing to uncover — apparently young people have got their act together and might even be doing a better job of not fucking up than their parents. On Toronto’s Youth Day, I find myself filled with hope for all the out of work, uninsured, climate changed rabble that I myself form a small, loud part of. I can’t help but feel that sultry, enthusiastic Ontarian Rose-Erin Stokes feels the same way.
Stokes has recorded a delightful EP with Not Alone. Her tunes track feelings of longing and disappointment, a youthful economy of lyrical content, if you will. The solitude of North Bay, ON comes shining through on the delicately articulated tracks. Repeatedly throughout the songs, a single relationship, in a single moment is picked at and probed until it reveals a truth. The song becomes a vacuum chamber, in which Stokes has placed a vital aspect of love and loss worthy of deep study.
String noise and atmospheric synth work collect within songs of direct communication on the album. Opener “If I Can’t Have Your Love” sets a tone of determination and starts off with a strong example of the intelligent production found on the record: the song is essentially a vocals and guitar heavyweight, yet the space for synthesizer and the appropriate punctuation of backing vocals is found and put into action, just so. It’s effects like these that transform a lyric with the potential for a downward emotional trajectory into a soaring introductory track.
Title track “Not Alone” is equally stirring. The song begins in a similarly muted fashion, with Stokes plucking away a “same old song” as mentioned in the track’s first lines. But very quickly, the sounds build into a chattering, surging number. Vocal work piles up, Eric Treleavan’s wonderful lead guitar and banjo join the party, and the shuffle of Ben Legett’s drums carry things in all the right directions. It might sound sappy at first, but with tasteful musical accompaniment, the line, “Don’t lose hope, you are not alone,” can come off as sounding unpretentious and wholeheartedly tender.
Maybe the music of the young today is any music that seeks a way forward through obstacles and challenges that seem unforgivably overbearing. Rose-Erin Stokes has such a collection of songs with the Not Alone EP. The music is moving, without trying too hard, and that’s just as noble as quiet confidence in a world that seems determined to write you off.
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)
Top Tracks: “Not Alone” ; “Stay” ; “Tonight”