Hopefully it’s not just me, but the name Rosy Finch had me imagining one of those singer-songwritery types who make a mint recording fey, acoustic versions of popular songs to be used on John Lewis adverts. Given where you’re reading this, you won’t be surprised to learn that this isn’t the case. This Rosy Finch promise to deliver some ‘sludge grrrl/stoner/metal’, which sounds infinitely preferable to me (and incidentally seems like a reasonable precis of their sound). However, I’m still a bit confused by the band name. Is it ironic? Is there something about the superspecies of songbird (Wikipedia tells me there are in fact four separate species of rosy finch that are so similar that it’s debatable whether they really are separate species at all) that’s particularly germane to angry, heavy rock?
In any event, Rosy Finch are a three-piece from Alicante who have been around since 2013. Scarlet is the band’s second full-length album and their first release following a significant line-up change in 2019. By significant I mean that only guitarist / singer Mireia Porto remains from the original line-up, with an entirely new rhythm section made up of Oscar Soler on bass and Juanjo Ufarte on drums. Whilst I can’t claim any previous familiarity with the band, I’ve gone back and listened to their earlier releases and Scarlet sounds markedly heavier and angrier than anything in their back catalogue. They sound like a band still influenced by a range of grungey 90s alt-rock, but exploring darker directions.
Two things struck me on my initial listen. Firstly, Porto is an excellent, versatile vocalist with a range of styles that travel from soft, almost spoken-word (which at points really reminded me Shirley Manson) all the way to blood-curdling shrieks where she sounds like all three Furies unleashed at once. Secondly, I really love the production on this record. I only found out when I was doing some fact-checking that Billy Anderson was involved in the recording, but it makes a lot of sense: the guitar tone across the record is absolutely crushing and the drums and bass provide a real pummelling.
Given that Rosy Finch’s basic sound is so solid, it’s unsurprising that when they pair it with some quality tunes the results are excellent. Lead single, if such a thing still exists, Lava is easily the most immediate track on the album. It’s driven by one of those simple, propulsive guitar lines which sound immediately familiar but also totally awesome.
the guitar tone across the record is absolutely crushing and the drums and bass provide a real pummelling…
Gin Fizz slows things down and harks back to the early-90s with a really cool take on the quiet-verse-loud-chorus formula, vocals veering from dreamy and ethereal to royally pissed-off at the drop of a hat. The quiet breakdown two-thirds of the way through leads into the expected big finish in a thoroughly satisfying way.
The title track Scarlet is another winner and would be a worthy closer. Here the band really nail the super-heavy grunge sound of bands like Snail and showcases Porto’s understated but excellent guitar playing. The over-dubbed guitar melody that crops up towards the end of the track isn’t flashy or complex, but perfectly-judged and atmospheric. It really brings another dimension to proceedings.
Another thing I found strangely pleasing was the inclusion of a ‘hidden’ track. You know, a few minutes of silence after what you thought was the final track before the actual final track plays. I’m going to lazily attribute the popularity of hidden tracks to Nirvana as I can’t personally think of one that pre-dates Nevermind, but it seemed like every CD you bought in the mid-1990s had one and I sort of miss them. This will work much better on CD or vinyl – the first few times I listened to my digital copy I missed it as I’d assumed the album had finished and turned it off.
If I was feeling picky, my main criticism of Scarlet would be that outside of the tracks I’ve described above, the album can feel a little samey in places. There are some nice flourishes and there’s nothing so sub-par as to be considered filler, but by the same token there isn’t much that really jumps out and grabs you. Still, that would be being extremely picky; Scarlet is a really good album with more than enough quality tuneage worthy of your time.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc