Roisin O'Hagan - I Ran / Dreamstate EP
Having only quickly glanced at Roisin O'Hagan's announcement of her new single - and reading it as "Iran", the thoughts of a single that incorporated the struggle of women in the current political climate there seemed a bold step to be making! Of course it turned out that the new single was in fact a cover of the 80's underrated hit from the bizarrely coiffured A Flock Of Seagulls.
It is also an announcement of a new direction for Roisin, as she leaves the Americana scene to head off into the world of pop / rock - it's a change that came as a bit of a surprise as it was only just over a year ago that #TEAMw21 were raving about her latest single "Sunset Valley" which seemed to be her most assured work to date. Sadly news of the subsequent EP passed us by, so as farewell present we've included a belated review of that as well.
Roisin's take on "I Ran" is a fairly faithful rendition, retaining many of the key features such as the puncturing guitar riffs - the main difference being the different driving rhythm, which has a more modern feel to it and Roisin's vocals being more upfront in the mix rather than being buried as was the trend in those days.
A year or so ago "Heartland" announced itself with the glorious single "Sunset Valley" and listening to it now, it still sounds strong - Had Roisin been able to plug this live with a kick ass band behind her then who knows where things may have led. The EP had followed on the groundwork set by the the equally good single "Miss You Like June"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz0OoAIadWs - Sunset Valley video
"Sunset Valley" arrives with an intro of bright jangly guitars and a power pop drum beat, your attention is grabbed from the off and Roisin does not let up in this tale of a teenage relationship. There's a cracking narrative and the sound is punchy which all go to make this a compelling listen.
The lyrics simply keep on coming, bringing one of her influences Counting Crows to mind, and there is so much to take in even though it lasts only slightly over three minutes. There's the boy who says he'll stay but Roisin's narrator knows different
"You'll start a fire in the middle of the night
and you'll lose your way and you might just drive
till you find some place so much brighter than Sunset Valley"
While at the same time she accepts she'll be the one staying behind and that life must go on - she also knows that her flame will still remain burning.
"I'll be the only one left standing while they're dimming the lights
I'll be here waiting right here one day you're gonna be mine
The best things are going to take time"
This is pure Americana pop and but for Roisin's occasional Essex twang on "Best fings" you could easily believe this was a new single from Nashville's latest starlet. Everything about this single screams class from the cover with Roisin overdressed for her surroundings, sitting on bare floorboards leaning against a refridgerator while holding a glass of wine, through to the assuredness in the vocals and the overall sound.
"Road From Nevada" by contrast is relatively sparse, primarily just an acoustic guitar as Roisin encapsulates Bruce Springsteen song titles into her opening verse.There is an additional guitar sound that almost wails in the background to great effect
"Wanna be someone - wanna live like it won't last long
Wanna see the world and fall from higher heights"
Wanna be someone wanna love like it's the last one
Wanna see the roads aligning in starlight"
It's a song of dreams and aspirations that comes with
a knowing Tom Petty reference
"If all my heroes learned to fly then why can't I?"
"Wild & Free" is a return to the pace and volume of the opener with a prominent drum and guitar sound. It finds Roisin in the early moments of a relationship
"Wild skies talked until the sunrise Thought about it all night on a green sofa, four piercing eyes Full trust cause they don't know about us I can keep a secret if you promise that you're on my side"
The chorus finds Roisin giving a vocal performance that is as "Wild & Free" as the song title it seems totally uninhibited, joyful and exuberant.
"And they could call it hearsay But you know I think about you always We've been playing hide and seek so close your eyes and just believe And they could call it risky But I only like it when you're with me And I've been waiting all this time it's nothing like they said it'd be So we can call it wild and free"
There is a return to a slower acoustic sound for "Broken Wings" and if "Wild & Free" was about a relationship about to start then "Broken Wings" is at a pivotal point at the other end of the spectrum.
"Tell me you're lonely - don't hide the truth - tear all your walls down cos I feel it too
This walk home is all that we've got till I'm gone so tell me you're lonely
Cities between us so come on open your heart up"
The chorus has never made Roisin sound more Nashville and it is followed by s country a guitar solo as it gets.
"You know in the morning I'll be leaving on a one way flight
So come on talk to me like it's the last time
All I need is a dream and and a reason and I'll stay
Don't let broken wings take me away"
There is one final attempt to elicit the tiniest od responses that would cause her to stay
You know in the morning you could see me in your drive away
Cos I couldn't leave - the thought of you and me"!!!
The EP closes with the wonderful "Smoke Stain" which feels the most personal of the collection -.
"White lies - found them on your black side
All alone, missed the last train home, just for you
Bad time looking for your good side
Said I didn't know where it all went wrong but I do"
There's a lot of thought going into the writing of that opening verse, Roisin playing with opposites throughout.
It all leads to the chorus which will surely count among Roisin finest during her tenure in the Americana community
"Love you like a sad song - baby got it all wrong
Nothing in this world could have saved me from you
Hate you on the car ride, miss you on the down side
I light a cigarette, start a fire in your room
Oh and now your old flames
There's a fine fine line between sadness and going insane
and I guess in a moment of madness I let the smoke stain"
The song was later successfully re imagined as a duet with Julian Carmena which is equally fine and worthy of investigation.
As the line in "Big Yellow Taxi" goes - "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" and it seems we are waving farewell to Roisin just as she had produced her finest work. We here at #TEAMw21 remember a support slot from Roisin with Megan O'Neill at The Green Note where she previewed a number of songs which have yet to see the light of the day such as "Get Out Of This Car", "Standstill" , "Undone" & "Bad For Me" which could maybe have become a "Heartland" followup EP or perhaps they'll appear in Roisin's new rock and pop guise - either way we wish her well for the future.