Album Review: Rosie Tucker—’Never Not Never Not Never Not’

Posted: by The Editor

Rosie Tucker seems like someone who’d be really good at writing letters. The L.A. artist writes vivid, emotionally rich songs about the things they couldn’t say in person, but still feel the unquenchable desire to etch permanently into music. Sometimes, it’s the stinging regret of not flirting with their laundromat crush (“Spinster Cycle”), or feeling too silly to acknowledge the celestial beauty of their dance partner (“Gay Bar”). Other times, it’s the dull pain of wanting to apologize long after an interpersonal fallout, but holding back because of the perceived futility in trying to amend something that’s permanently broken. That latter song is called “Habit,” and the titular routine is in fact that tongue-holding instinct of theirs.

The eleven tracks on Never Not Never Not Never Not go deeper than just twee sincerity, though. “Lauren” is a funny and heartfelt ode to a former roommate who used to hear Tucker’s songs through the wall and sing them back. But it’s presented as a fleshed-out, rip-roaring rock song that’s such a far cry from the acoustic, bedroom origins the lyrics reference. It’s a subtle, and perhaps unintentional writing technique. But it creates a real sense of time and place that nudges the listener to wonder if Lauren ever did write those songs that “queer kids with cute haircuts wanna tell their moms about.”

The record’s final track, “Pablo Neruda,” concludes with a different type of cliff hanger. The song ends with Tucker drunk-crying on the steps outside a party, running back the quirky interactions they had throughout the night and wishing they could tell one person in particular—despite “all that we’ve been through.” Again, it’s an instance where Tucker’s articulate, self-aware storytelling is a substitute for what they couldn’t say socially. It’s obviously not a rare quality for a songwriter to sing about bottled-up sentiments. Tucker just happens to be exceptionally good at writing about themselves in a way that’s enthralling for total strangers to read along with. At once personal and universal; intimately revealing and downright fun to sing along to.

Much of that intoxicating character comes from the music itself. This is only Tucker’s second album, and they’re already remarkably talented at writing unassumingly grand pop hooks. The sound of the record is, I think intentionally, difficult to nail down. However, a very generalized description would be a West Coast response to East Coast indie-pop acts like Frankie Cosmos and Adult Mom. Tucker’s voice has a very similar range to Greta Kline’s and Steph Knipe’s, but the way they use it lends itself to the peaks and valleys of the often-bouncy instrumentals.

For instance, tracks like “Gay Bar” and “Spinster Cycle” have a sun-drenched wooziness to them that feels distinctly foreign to the bustling nature of Next Thing, but also different than the Upstate whispiness of Florist and Free Cake For Every Creature. There’s a touch of cowboy/cowgirl twanginess in Tucker’s voice that turns up on cuts like “Fault Lines,” “Shadow of A Doubt,” and “Pablo Neruda.” And something about it just doesn’t sound like it’d come from Philly—where many of Tucker’s indie-rock contemporaries are climbing out of. Furthermore, the steamy, shimmering outlier “Real House Music” sounds like it could’ve ended up on the latest La Luz record, a quintessentially West Coast breed of swaying indie-rock.

More than just abstract regional attributes and their knack for trenchant storytelling, Rosie Tucker is a musical craftsperson. Going back to “Habit,” (the record’s standout, which says a lot considering what it’s up against) that song has such complex vocal phrasings and so many odd, creative changeups—but is still so incredibly catchy. There are many moments on Never Not Never Not Never Not when all of the components (vocals, lyrics, instrumentals) conjoin into one, succinct display of perfection. And that’s certainly a good habit for Rosie Tucker to have picked up. 

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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