With a swift tap of the drums, an ocean of melodies comes pouring through the speakers in “Sprout,” the title track from Stephanie Rose’s sleekly-designed new EP. An acoustic guitar groove is all that it takes to get us swaying to the opening bars, which are quickly accented by Rose’s soft Canadian voice in all of its velvety glory. The rhythm is somewhat lumbering, but it doesn’t drag against the vibrant energy that the lyrics are injecting into every beat. Harmonies come flying at us from every direction, but the storm is only starting to brew as we descend into the stoic “Rusted Love” and the pointed verses that are waiting on its broad horizons. Say what you will of the modern singer/songwriter movement, but Stephanie Rose is one artist who is the true article.
“Rusted Love” takes a few seconds to ascend from the darkness and come bursting through its pop framework with a burning country swing. The guitars are a lot more understated here than they are in the leadoff track, but they aren’t altogether removed from the picture. If the swanky hook of this song doesn’t buy a lifetime’s worth of love from you, the bold single “Luxury” almost certainly will. The video for “Luxury” features Stephanie Rose taking to the snow-clad Canadian forests to track down some firewood with a special friend, soaking up all the natural luxuries that the soul of the wild has to give. She and her romantic interest haven’t a care in the world; it’s just the two of them, the endless white wonderland that surrounds, and a desire to warm up together in the chilly elements. It’s effective and efficient, but most importantly, the video captures Rose’s identity as well as, if not better than, anything on Sprout does.
“Old Soul” is a springy country/pop song that comes swaggering out of the ashes of “Luxury” and sets the stage for the rock-inspired “Crushed.” At first glance, the hostility of the tension-building melody driving the opening stanza is a stark change from what the first four tracks of Sprout delivered to us, but once we get to the chorus a familiar cathartic fever pitch ensures that we haven’t gone too far off the beaten path. The multifaceted nature of this diverse track listing alone makes this EP a hands-down favorite of mine coming into 2019, but frankly I think that its conservative production will inevitably be what propels it to widespread acclaim.
Using the same relaxed pacing as “Old Soul,” “Same Old Same Old” brings Sprout to a stunning conclusion, imparting to us one last set of sizzling lyrics before retreating into the silence that Rose sliced through in the opening track. Running a mere 20 minutes in total length, it’s hard not to play this entire EP from start to finish when one is in the mood for endearing songcraft that speaks to the little bit of country that exists in all of us. I’ve had a tough time putting Sprout down since first picking it up, and my gut (not to mention most of my fellow critics) tells me I’m definitely not the only one.
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