Review: Rose Cousins, “Bravado”

Rose Cousins - Bravado

Following her highly acclaimed and incredibly successful 2017 “Natural Conclusion” album, JUNO Award and GRAMMY nominee Rose Cousins releases her much anticipated new album, “Bravado,” today.  Described by Cousins as the sound of a heart trying to open, “Bravado” explores the complication of emotion, its irrational tendencies and its wisdom, and is for those who struggle with loneliness and those wishing they had more time alone – for those who struggle to connect with others, or even to connect with their true selves.  “Me and my bravado, we can do anything / Together we’re not scared, we are shining / She never lets me down, she knows I can be quiet / It’s when I lean on in,” are the opening lines recited during “The Expert,” marking the first reference to the album’s core theme.  “I think about how we’re so disconnected,” states Cousins. “I get sucked into my phone and forget to go for a walk because of this sense of obligation I have that convinces me to get as much work done as possible.  We must be getting close to a breaking point.”

For Cousins, this album also reflects a personal and professional metamorphosis; drawing upon her years of experience to take on the role of producer too. Seeking a talented ensemble of Toronto-based musicians for “Bravado,” Rose successfully enlisted the all-star cast of Dean Drouillard (guitars), Robbie Grunwald (keyboards), Brian Kobayakawa (bass), Joshua Van Tassel (drums), all engineered under the watchful eyes and ears of Chris Stringer.  And at the heart of this strong body, of course, you’ll find the always breathtaking vocals and outstanding lyrical poetry you’d expect from an artist of such high caliber; whether yearning for acceptance (“The Benediction (A Good Woman)”) or seeking affirmation (“The Lullaby (My Oldest Love)” – co-written with Tim Baker), Cousins’ voice is as powerful and emotive as ever.  Expect a few surprises too, notably the brief 37 second run-time of “The Din,” and the gorgeous piano and strings filled ballad, “The Time Being (Impending Mortality Awareness Society),” the tale of a group that “Meets twice a week, do or die / Because time is of the essence / So they gather in its presence … More than finishing a sentence / Of penance and repentance / Births, funerals and weddings.

“Bravado” is flanked by two distinct renditions of the same song, “The Benefits of Being Alone,” and “The Reprise,” reinforcing this examination of emotional duality. Commencing with hints of Gilbert O’Sullivan, courtesy of some bouncing key strokes from Grunwald, the upbeat opening pop vocals from Rose drew immediate comparisons to Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” for me.  As for the latter, this much slower, intimate affair offers some incredibly sentimental piano, allowing Rose the opportunity to completely tug at your heartstrings this time around.  Be sure to spend a little time enjoying the recently released single, “The Return (Love Comes Back),” a lighter, up-tempo number that has all the hallmarks of the timeless, traditional Rose Cousins sound.  Team GDW had the good fortune of witnessing Rose road-test this track back in 2018, and are naturally delighted to see that it did not end up on the cutting-room floor.  “The human ability to give care and tenderness while experiencing everyday struggle is tremendous,” Rose shares. “The Return reminds us that we are simply that – human – with and without superpowers. That in giving, we see it return to us.”

A stunning new album from one of Canada’s finest musicians, and an essential addition to your collection.  Rose Cousins is back, and as good as, if not better than, ever.

 

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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