Ashley Monroe’s last album ‘Sparrow’ was a lush and orchestral step away from her country music roots, with songs like ‘Wild Love’ and ‘Hands on You’ offering us the first hints that she was an artist willing to take risks and move in new directions. Her new album Rosegold fully embraces this ethereal, sensual musical style, with deliciously dreamy results.
Ashley has one of the most beautiful voices in the country genre and so some may see this shift away as a loss. However she wasn’t a huge success in the mainstream and so was dropped by her major record label after the last album. That to me isn’t necessarily a bad thing since she can now do what she wants in the studio and enjoy experimenting with her sound. Being unshackled from genre expectations has given her an opportunity to breathe and redefine herself.
Ashley has always had a little bit of sass in her music but there was more than a hint of real sadness too. Now her music sounds happier, lighter like she’s loving not having to live up to an idea of what a country music singer has to be or sound like. When I describe this album as ‘pop’ I don’t mean she’s turned into Taylor Swift or anything cheesy like that. The music is subtle and sophisticated, with more modern programming – think Lana Del Rey or a more ethereal rnb Golden Hour – mixed with the lush, layered style of her previous album.
We begin with ‘Siren’, where she casts a spell over her lover, inviting them to her dreamworld of wildflowers (as pictured on the cover). We then float into the divine Silk, which showcases her stunning voice in all its glory. A reminder to ‘hold on’ to those we love, to celebrate the light the love when we have it.
With its snap beats, repeated refrains and whisper notes Gold is one of the most ‘modern’ sounding song on here – offering appreciation for the good things in life. See has a more laid back, slower feel. Drive, Flying and Groove all combine to create a gorgeous, sensual mood.
Lyrically then these songs don’t dwell on anything too long, aiming for celebration instead of introspection. Til it Breaks is the moment on the album where she takes a deeper look at her life and career, concludes that sometimes you have to just let your troubles ‘melt away’ and when things shatter see it as an opportunity to start again. Coming apart is a new beginning musically too.
By the end of the album she’s found ‘The New Me’ – a way of being in her own skin which feels like home. I’m alive and on fire, she sings with passion and confidence.
On first listen maybe some fans will find the sonic shift a step too far out of their comfort zone, or maybe like Pitchfork they will wonder if the songs really stand up in comparison to what she’s offered in the past. In the end though none of that really matters – this is the album Ashley wanted to make, needed to make, melodies she says were sent to her from above. Rosegold takes the higher ground and is a shining bright light amongst the clouds.