Major of Roses – Cornerstone
Swedish singer/songwriter Magnus Rosell, working under the moniker Major of Roses, has announced his presence with a major new recording entitled Cornerstone. The album features some customary instrumentation but, largely, focuses listeners’ attention on the art pop aspects in Rosell’s work. Cornerstone is a nine song collection beginning with the uneasy emotional trajectory taken by its opener “Golden Shroud”. Rosell’s press materials make bold comparisons of his vocal style to the likes of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, but Rosell is never so restricted and puts over each of the release’s tracks with the required amount of emotional authority. The lyrical content of Rosell’s material needs pushed harder as he’s an incisive lyricist with a penchant for compelling imagery.
The stripped back march of the song “I Don’t Care” has a satisfying bluesy bite accompanying it and we hear more of why Rosell’s vocal is compared to artists like Cohen. It’s a facile selling point, however, as Rosell clearly takes a different tack with his performances than the aforementioned iconic artists. Moreover, his writing style is distinctly different and never strains for effect like lesser talents strive for. The emotion in “I Don’t Care” is real from the first and Rosell brings a convincing timber to each line. Quasi-walking bass opens “Albatross” before Rosell’s voice soon joins in. The lean approach of this song is quite unlike anything else preceding it and the lyric packs a strongly evocative, poetic quality not shared with any of the other tunes on Cornerstone. His phrasing is especially strong with this number.
The moody, spartan stride of “Pry” opens with a gripping lyrical couplet that complements the musical tone. There’s a cawing, mock-crooner tone in Rosell’s delivery adding a deliberately theatrical spin to the tune, like those before it, but never over pronounced. Instead, this is a highly stylized effort managing to pack an ample and surprising wallop. The introductory sounds of a vinyl record on a turntable underline the title song’s retro thrust. Rosell and his collaborators find a deep pocket, slinky groove they ride through the song’s entirety and it results in one of the album’s best performances.
The lo-fi demeanor of “A World Without You” represents a slight departure from what’s come before, namely with its droning vocal arrangement and acoustic instrumentation, but the same meditative spirit dominating the earlier songs continues here. Another imaginative detour from the norm comes with the album’s final song “Who Could Ask For More?” and its careful build makes for a more than effective closer. The same melancholy vision defining the preceding eight songs finds new fertile creative ground with this finale and the lyrical invention defining much of the preceding songwriting remains in force with this last track. Cornerstone is a major contribution to the singer/songwriter scene of today and Magnus Rosell distinguishes himself as a lyricist of true note with substantive literary flair. Let us hope that there’s much more to come from this major European talent.