A curious thing happened as I listened repeatedly to James Rosemanâ€™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 naivetÃ©, 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 (â€œTrack 3â€) to a touch of flamenco (â€œWhat Are You Waiting Forâ€) to saxophone and kazoo, bass drum and snare.
In the middle of these nine songs I find myself listening to over and over again, thereâ€™s an achingly vulnerable, sweet and melancholy take on Ben Gibbardâ€™s brilliant masterpiece, â€œSuch Great Heights.â€ James also has some rather stark poetry of his own â€“ â€œWith your feet in the mud, you feel right at home / And itâ€™s in the dark you feel so alone / Yet so at ease, no one to please, hasnâ€™t it ended yet?â€ (from â€œYoung Bloodâ€). 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? (â€œ21 grams I follow for / 21 grams Iâ€™m chasingâ€). Iâ€™ll be keeping an eye on you, son.