Cast Away The Clouds
Rose Melberg's Cast Away the Clouds is simply enchanting. With only minimal help (the occasional piano, harmony vocal, and violin), the ex-Softies singer has crafted an intimate and sweet record that tenderly plucks heartstrings and will leave you with a warmed, if somewhat melancholy, heart. Melberg was always pegged as a twee cutie in the past, but a listen to any Softies record shows a songwriter of simple grace with a real ability to cut through the haze of everyday life and hit you where it counts, gently but with lasting effects. This record removes any last traces of indie pop from her sound and reveals a grown-up and sophisticated vocalist; indeed, Melberg has never sounded as soft on love songs (like the lilting ballad "The Orchard" or "Little Bird") or as transcendentally sad on broken-hearted ballads (like "Take Some Time," "Cast Away the Clouds," and "Your Tears"). It sounds like the few years spent building a life away from music might have added just a little bit more power to her already nearly magical voice. All this talk of change may frighten longtime Melberg followers, but don't worry -- she hasn't changed her musical approach that much. The first notes of the daisy-fresh opener, "Take Some Time," let you know you are on familiar ground. As with the Softies, the album is built around acoustic guitar with a touch of electric guitar here and there as well as some stray piano, flute, and percussion. She sticks to this simple sound most of the time; only the uncharacteristically bouncy "Irene" breaks free and adds some soft rock piano and gentle drums. In less adept hands, the relatively homogeneous sound of the record might be cause for malaise, but Melberg manages to cast a spell instead. This could be down to Melberg's angel-sweet vocals -- recorded more closely than ever before, she sounds like she is sitting right next to you. When she harmonizes with herself, you might feel like you are sitting next to her on a cloud drifting right up to heaven. Perfect to ease you out of heartache or to warm a frozen heart, Cast Away the Clouds is the kind of small masterpiece that offers proof that the album is still alive and well in 2006. It also offers proof that Rose Melberg, great as she was in the Softies, Go Sailor, and on her previous solo effort, has jumped to the major leagues.