Kate Rogers – St. Eustacia

Canadian songstress Kate Rogers is probably best known for her collaborations with artists Aim and Rae&Christian. Her work on Aim’s truly monumental “Sail” got her some attention, and proved beyond a doubt that her voice is among the leaders in the biz. Haunting, delicate, beautiful, and on that track slightly unintelligible. Now she releases St. Eustacia, her first solo release, on Grand Central Records (the British home label of her aforementioned collaborators).

This isn’t quite what one might expect, and then again it is. Aim and their fellows seem to have very little to do with the sound of the album, so those expecting more of the same risk being disappointed. There’s more disparity in sound between these two sides of Kate, than say that between Dido’s solo work and her collaborations with Faithless, which were in themselves already pretty different.

The Kate Rogers we get here still has the same beautiful voice, but the style is quite different. Instead of turntables and dreamy keyboard samples, we get real honest-to-god instruments. There’s still some hints of that (oh-so 90s, but oh-so sweet) trip-hop sound we got used to on her previous singing ventures, but they’re buried pretty well. This is somewhere between folk, indie country and singer songwriter territory. It’s not rough though. The production is very slick, with reverbing and lots of ‘big’ sounds. It’s not very poppy though, as it isn’t like much else you would hear on the airwaves these days. It’s probably Kate doing what she’s always wanted to do.

And getting all the description out of the way and into the subjective part, it’s damn good. Accessible, but not stupid. One of the things that impressed me most was the quality of the lyrics which are literate and clever but down-to-earth enough not to sound anywhere near pretentious. It’s also a nice relief that there’s a great range of songs on the album, unlike many artists who get stuck in a stylistic rut; Kate Rogers runs the gamut.

My favourite song on the album so far, is probably the penultimate one..’This Collective’, which is a cheery Cardigansesque romp, with a playful drum beat, swooping “ooohs”, and a lovely catchy chorus with summery guitar bubbling up beneath. Listening closely to the lyrics proved surprising for the feel of the song:
“Bless this collective losing perspective, praying their way to forgiveness today. Watch as the people, they’re gathering round and one man he speaks and they’re kneeling down now. Moving, cry freely. Swiftly, discretely. They’ll make their way into your town, just wait. Offering salvation, tainted persuasion, training your life for allegience.”
Whether you choose to see organized religion in such cult-like light or not, I think it’s undeniable those are some pretty strong lyrics, and there’s many more to be found herein.

Overall, it’s definitely a good album. More pleasant than some like their music to be, perhaps not challenging; but definitely engaging, and accomplished. A very strong album that doesn’t draw any immediate comparisons to other artists. Kate Rogers has found her own voice, and I look forward to hearing more from her.

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