Roses Always Die is a beautiful record that is shockingly sparse and sardonic in nature. Sarah Mary Chadwick, accompanied throughout only by her own keyboard and what sounds like its factory setting drum beats, challenges the listener with her slightly tongue in cheek bleakness, coming across like Morrissey on ketamine and green tea.
Which is not to say that the music is not heartfelt or that sincerity is sacrificed for these stylistic choices. On the contrary, without any further production getting in the way there is nothing to distract from the strength of the songwriting. Chadwick uses the barebones instrumentation to compliment the comically bleak outlook of the lyrics, such as the one used as the title. She’s actually quite funny. The fact that all the songs feature only her vocal and keys purposefully reinforces the feeling of isolation and distance prevalent throughout the album – an artist so alone she doesn’t even have a real drummer.
Her vocal delivery is also part of this, it is often flat – not musically flat but monotone and lethargic – and at other points stretched and emotional, dragging out syllables for effect, such as ‘Tuesday go see a moo-viee’ in Cool It. More than vulnerable, she sounds sounds emotionally exhausted, and this suits the moody songs perfectly.
If there was any doubt about the dark comedy that underscores these songs listeners should look no further than the cover art, and the various other paintings Chadwick has used for her music in the past. The highly unglamorous pornographic pictures she makes seem to make a lot of sense when paired with the music, making some grim comment about affection, gratification and, once again, loneliness.
Above all else this is collection of strong songs, and the downer tone only adds impact when Chadwick delivers surprisingly catchy hooks, such as during the chorus of Making It Work. ‘It’s a big song ‘cos I’m happy’, she sings unconvincingly, but whatever the truth is we should all be happy that there is an artist making such strange, beautiful music.
Roses Always Die by Sarah Mary Chadwick is out Friday August 5 through Rice Is Nice Records
Published in Beat Magazine on Wednesday August 3, 2016