I make no bones about the fact that I am a big Adelyn Rose fan. I love their style, the fullness of their sound, the uniqueness of Addie Strei’s vocals, and the incredible percussion talent that is Dave Power. The first time I talked to Addie and Dave back in August of 2012, their debut album, Mezzanine, had only been out for a few months. Even though I, and many others, thoroughly enjoyed that album, Addie and Dave were quick to mention that the songs there were not really indicative of who they were as a band anymore and they expressed their deep desire to record their newer songs.
In Mezzanine and in the first few AdRo live performances I heard, I consistently heard great potential, deep creativity, rich instrumentation and textures, and emotionally intense moods and lyrics. They were, in my eyes, a diamond in the rough. The production value on Mezzanine was a little inconsistent throughout the album and some of the harmonies were a little loose. In their live shows, I couldn’t help but notice what seemed like a bit of insecurity or anxiety from time to time. They felt a little like a teenager trying to find out who they are. Nonetheless, I loved what I heard from them… and longed to hear them go deeper, stand more confidently, and record a truer representation of the creativity and talent that resides in them.
AdRo’s new album, “Ordinary Fantasy,” is an answer to those longings. What I hear on this album warms my heart. That’s not because of heart-felt lyrics or sappy sweet melodies. It is because, when I listen to this record, I hear a clear progression of the band and their sound. And, it is so, so good. I expected the emotiveness, intensity, textures, and instrumentation that I mentioned before. What I also got was higher production value, a fuller sound, and tight musicianship and vocals. The album is unpredictable and highlights what I consider the band’s greatest strengths: creative songwriting, unique vocals (lead and background), and incredible percussion.
My favorite song on the album is probably “It Means Shadow.” It moves and rocks. It is a riff and drums driven tune that should be playing on the radio. I also really enjoy the emotive “Press” and “The Wire.” “The Wire” is one of those songs that starts out quiet (yet intense) and builds louder and more raucous. I love that dynamic, and especially in that song. The album closes with what sounds like a declaration of independence in “Structured Hostility,” another song that builds steadily in intensity throughout, climaxing in Addie’s powerful declaration, “I’m done,” repeated several times. This album is packed full of mood and emotion: tenderness, edginess, sorrow, intensity…
I got to hear these songs as well as the other songs on the album live at House of Rock on Water Street last night at Adelyn Rose’s Album Release Show. They were so good. This was likely my favorite performance of theirs, not because of precision or showmanship (those things were there). I was enthralled by their poise and their confidence. I have always been a fan of Addie’s, but I felt like she was hesitant to be the front-person she can be. That was not the case last night. She totally looked like the face of the band, standing, playing, and singing with boldness and conviction.
And, Dave Power was… Dave Power. In fact, toward the end of last night’s show, there was a moment in which Dave’s drumming caught my attention and stirred me deeply. I’ve had spiritual experiences while listening to music many times over the years. Such a moment may come while listening to poignant lyrics (like those on Matthew Perryman Jones’s “Land of the Living”). Or, perhaps while taking in an epic classic, like Skynyrd’s “Freebird” (especially the guitar barrage at the end of the song). Last night, I had another such experience while listening to Dave play the drums. In that moment, his talent and passion were so apparent that I got caught up in what he was doing and I could see the God-given ability pouring out through the sticks. It was a breathtaking moment.
After becoming acquainted with “Ordinary Fantasy” over the last couple of weeks and experiencing the band live last night, I feel like I have seen something of a coming of age for Adelyn Rose. Their talent, creativity, and potential have always been evident to me. Now, the missing pieces are coming together. The teenager has become an adult and now has a clearer vision of who they are. Addie, Dave, Hannah Hebl, Leo Strei, and Jaime Hanson should be very proud of what they have accomplished together. I still think the best is yet to come for Adelyn Rose, but “Ordinary Fantasy” represents a huge step forward for them, and I would not be surprised in the least if it gains traction outside of the Chippewa Valley.