Today we find ourselves a few weeks past the release of the much-anticipated fourth album from one of Canada’s most captivating current bands, Hey Rosetta!. I had kept a close eye on the band throughout the year, waiting for a release date or possibly a single. I had intended to write a post about it as soon as it came out, but having spent a fair amount of time listening to and digesting this record I now feel that I can give a true verdict on how I feel about Second Sight. We can start with a single sentence on my overall impressions. Second Sight is yet another tremendous album from Hey Rosetta!, but for the time being I am placing it as my least favourite of their catalogue.
In that summation the first thought is certainly the one that bears the most weight. I have had Second Sight playing through my speakers on a regular rotation since its release (when I’m taking a break from this year’s Phish Halloween), and I have been loving every run through the record. Second Sight is their most pop-oriented album yet. It’s probably their easiest album to digest, and it’s certainly the least tense. It’s an interesting split between rather joyful, fun, upbeat tunes and slow, longing ballads, and I feel it is the ballads that really shine through. Just like all of their albums (Another Pilot to a lesser extent), Second Sight is well constructed, with each song having more value as a part of the album than as an individual track. Second Sight is going to be much enjoyed by current fans of these Newfoundlanders, and it’s likely to pull in quite a number of new, previously unaware fans.
One of Hey Rosetta!’s greatest strengths is the ability to continually reinvent their sound. Each album they have put forward has had a distinct flavour, meaning they have no albums that are obsolete. Second Sight is no exception to this trend. The album is still going to give listeners the classic Hey Rosetta! builds, the same kind of song structures and melodies, but the way these basic elements are dressed up has once again changed dramatically. In this new arrangement there are a few things I miss. The influence of acoustic instruments has been significantly reduced, particularly with a lesser reliance on the strings. Most of the angst-y side of their music has departed for a happier, perhaps calmer sound. The progression of each track is a little more straightforward than on their previous albums. These elements have been replaced by a much heavier use of synthesizers, a significant increase in the amount of production, and a greater emphasis on rhythm and percussion. These changes are not inherently improvements or detriments. While I am personally more fond of their older material (particularly Into Your Lungs), another appreciator might find that Second Sight suits them a little more.
Hey Rosetta! is embarking on yet another tour to support Second Sight. Having seen them try out many of their new tunes at Ottawa Folk Festival, I can attest to the fact that it is well worth your time to see the new material in person. I won’t hesitate to catch them again at the NAC in February. Give Second Sight a listen, go listen to their previous albums if you haven’t already, and go see their tour. All of these courses of action will lead to great musical enjoyment.