Rosie Tucker’s songs are worlds unto themselves. They start in conversation with an immediate environment: small, detailed, characters and landscapes drawn vividly, with life and wit. Only as they progress do they reveal bigger themes.
Starting with the first track “Gay Bar” and then throughout their new album Never Not Never Not Never Not out March 8, 2019 on the New Professor label, Tucker’s songs talk with and echo the queer, blacklisted, and forgotten female songwriters of the 1960s: Dusty Springfield, Buffy St. Marie, Sibylle Baier, Norma Tanega, Karen Dalton. Like them, Tucker uses emotionally rich images of the world, and while the lyrics have political implications, politics are not the first concern of the songs.
Made with close collaborators Anna Arboles, Wolfy, and Jessica Reed, who form a muscular, guitar-driven quartet, Tucker’s songs call to mind a few contemporaries: Hop Along, Frankie Cosmos, Mitski. But they’re set apart in their specificity, self-awareness, and obvious care for the craft of songwriting and the practice of making art.
(Photo Credit: Shabnam Ferdowsi)
I met Rosie Tucker in the green room of The Echo after missing their set. They will insist I was nonchalantly brandishing an empty flask of since-polished-off tequila while, in stark contrast, I remember having having a “chill” and “sober” night at the gig after a relentless Monday at work. Rosie will also insist that I ignored them and instead spoke to their guitarist about tone or amps or something else formidably nerdy. Conversely, I contend that Rosie Tucker, an otherworldly songsmith at the loom of timelessness, is far too unignorable for me to ever believe any part of their side of that story.
Equally unbelievable was the thoughtful, elegantly ear-catching sophomore LP, Never Not Never Not Never Not, that arrived in my inbox in the form of a humble Google Drive link after some pesky persistence on my part. Nearly every track on NNNNNN is worthy of a single premiere, but after five months of witnessing Rosie weave their loom from a few steps closer, I’ve been charged with the honorable task of sharing words on their latest single, “Habit.”
As children, many of us were taught to watch our mouths, that if we didn’t have anything nice to say we shouldn’t say anything at all, to speak when only when spoken to, and on and on from the loose lips of the adults who were warning us. In “Habit,” Rosie Tucker struggles with the inability to break themselves of exactly this, a “bad habit of holding [their] tongue.” Rosie is apologizing right out of the gate for refraining from expressing themselves when they wanted to most, or perhaps for never snagging the opportunity to do so at all.
Meanwhile, the music chugs along in odd-metered confidence. Angular and self-reliant chords announce the track (possibly a harmonic reference to my favorite song, “Beautiful Machine,” off of Tucker’s first record?), until we hear Rosie’s ever-charismatic lilt, like moonlight through the cracked blinds, splayed across carpeted floor, blushing with retrospective wisdom and weaving trepidation. As the song tumbles forward, they deliver verses with compounding frustration until the chorus resurfaces again, “gleaming and profound” (to use Rosie’s own lyric), with a hook that, fittingly, won’t quit.
We’ve all got a bad habit or two we’re trying to kick. Sometimes the courage to muster up the words to express a feeling is hard-pressed to be found; sometimes we’re late, we’re careless, our dishes are piling up and we stumble drunkenly into green rooms after shows at which we did not even perform. We’re inherently flawed, but often that’s what makes us wondrous to the folks who love us, or who would love to love us, most. “God, it is so hard growing up,” we lament alongside our earnest hero, while we attempt to clear a little clutter from our conscience. And as Rosie nudges us, gently, empathically, toward confronting our own habits, they remind us that in this case, speaking our truth would ultimately be more gratifying than regretting a tongue-tied juncture with a person that we continued to love long past the time we spent in their presence. That “if while we lean toward death, we lock eyes with meaning… then we walk on holy ground.” As such, a slouching stroll toward fate finally becomes an affirming encounter with the ability to loosen our grip on the patterns that bind us, a reverent nod of acknowledgement to what held us too closely in order that we continue shuffling forward.
On a personal note, I feel so fortunate that some of my biggest artistic inspirations also happen to be folks with whom I’ve had the pleasure of falling into orbit. Navigating space beside Rosie Tucker is no exception. They craft lyric and melody with Swiss Army knife precision. They are a spy picking locks with bobby pins in a boorish world that comes barreling through doors, crowbars and mallets swinging. I suppose in some way we all make it across the threshold, but at least the Rosie-method gracefully leaves room for us to come and go, to open the door again, and to shut it behind us while softly stepping inside their green room in order to delight in their company and their brilliant new songs. Suffice it to say, a day where Rosie Tucker wakes up “bereft with no poetry left,” is no day I wish to experience.
You can pre-order Never Not Never Not Never Not on Bandcamp.
(Photo Credit: Shabnam Ferdowsi)