Friday, December 29, 2017

Review of Bess Rogers' "Can't Remember Where"

I posted this just a few minutes ago on the Sputnik Music website:

Review Summary: New York indie singer Bess Rogers packs a lot of punch into this 3-song EP.

Can't Remember Where (2016) is a 3-song EP by New York indie musician Bess Rogers. It's her most recent solo release, although Allie Bess and Hannah Sing, a project created in conjunction with fellow musicians Allie Moss and Hannah Winkler, was released later in that same year.

In spite of its brief length, this is a memorable album. This is due in part to Rogers' voice -- put simply, it's never been lovelier. It's hard for me to believe now, but there was a time I considered her to be just a slightly-above average singer. I think it's because there's nothing flashy about her. She has a straightforward delivery, never relying on the trills and vocal gymnastics that some singers use to draw attention to themselves. But her delivery is never less than pure, and her voice has a smoothness to it that I find more and more appealing every time I listen to her.

The other strength of Can't Remember Where lies in its material. The EP contains two original numbers and a cover, and each one has a kick to it.

The title track, which leads off the album, is a love song that's literally for the ages -- it follows a relationship through various rebirths and gender flips, as the singer repeatedly finds her lover again through repeated lifetimes, always with a gnawing feeling that they've met before, though she can't remember where. The song is nicely supported by gently strummed acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, and some subtle-but-appealing synth. It immediately goes into competition with the LOURDS song "Always" for the title of "My Favorite Reincarnation Love Song Ever".

Track two, "Day After Day", was written by Rogers in conjunction with her husband Chris Kuffner. This is a slow song that was actually rerecorded for the Allie Bess and Hannah album in a slightly altered form. While each version has its merits, I think I prefer this one. While I miss the gorgeous harmonies with Moss and Winkler on the Allie Bess and Hannah rendition, this one is more fully orchestrated, and for me, a little more satisfying. The song is about a relationship that probably isn't the healthiest -- the singer often finds herself angry at her lover, but he has a way of mesmerizing her into forgetting all of the things he's done to piss her off.

Now normally, I'm all about original music. However, every so often, you come across a cover that makes you hear a song in a whole new way. That's the case here, which is why Rogers' cover of The Gin Blossoms' "Found Out About You" is my favorite track on this EP. This has always been a very strong song, but this new version is devastating. Rogers slows the song down, not to a dirge, but just enough to force you to concentrate on the words. Her version is also instrumentally more sparse than the original, which again forces you to listen to what she's singing. And what she's singing is a tale of hurt, deception and betrayal, in a simple but sincere way, that functions as something of an emotional gut punch. It's one of the more memorable covers I've heard over the last few years.

Rogers and Kuffner celebrated the birth of their first child this past May, and she seems to be taking some time off right now to see the little fellow through his first holiday season. Nevertheless, I'm hoping for some new music from her sometime during 2018. But in the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy this little gem, along with Allie Bess and Hannah Sing and the rest of her previous output.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This will probably be my last review for 2017. But I have a few more reviews of local albums coming up in January, including the new album by The Hank Stone Band and the latest by Neil Cavanagh.

Until then, I wish you all a safe and Happy New Years!

Rich H.