A curious thing happened as I listened repeatedly to James Roseman’s debut album, Words and Tricks, a surprisingly sophisticated effort for an 18-year-old with a G4 Powerbook in his bedroom. What first came across as a charming collection of songs about young love and heartbreak from the vantage point of naiveté, after a few spins took on the tone of a wiser and far more jaded jilted lover, looking back with both nostalgic compassion and sardonic disgust. His musical palette varies from whimsically wayward multi-tracked vocals (“Track 3”) to a touch of flamenco (“What Are You Waiting For”) to saxophone and kazoo, bass drum and snare.
In the middle of these nine songs I find myself listening to over and over again, there’s an achingly vulnerable, sweet and melancholy take on Ben Gibbard’s brilliant masterpiece, “Such Great Heights.” James also has some rather stark poetry of his own – “With your feet in the mud, you feel right at home / And it’s in the dark you feel so alone / Yet so at ease, no one to please, hasn’t it ended yet?” (from “Young Blood”). Young blood, perhaps, but an old soul. I mean really, how many 18-year-olds would use the concept of 21 grams in a pop song? (“21 grams I follow for / 21 grams I’m chasing”). I’ll be keeping an eye on you, son.