Sub Rosa – Slings & Arrows

Sub Rosa
Slings & Arrows

The female voice has an advantage over that of males in that women often have a greater range and versatility. However, they also have the ability to be whiny, piercing, and extremely grating when off key. If a male doesn’t quite hit his note, the lower tone can sometimes mask the mistake or even, if he’s good enough, make it seem cool, as if he intended for it to be that way. This also has to do with the types of songs women usually sing, which are challenging and rangy or screaming and whiny. There are also the breathy types with guitars who sound lovely but boring after a while. But then there the voices that are neither breathy nor extremely high-pitched, and they have more of an instrumental quality to them that allows them to flow through different notes seamlessly and with a bit of their own style. These are artists like Sarah McLauchlan, Alanis Morrisette, Bjork, and Tori Amos.

Sub Rosa is lead by Jennifer Boeder, who has one of these melodically haunting voices with similarities to that of Sinead O’Connor and Sarah McLachlan. She has a strong voice that, while it could probably hold up with little accompaniment, has a greater effect blended with the slightly dark, moody music. She may be a woman with a guitar, but like Sinead O’Connor who partnered up with Massive Attack on their most recent album, her songs are no campfire sing-along. Her music partner, Jesse Hozeny, is a great force, contributing guitars, bass, and drums to the mix.

The couple’s debut, Slings & Arrows, opens with an instant taste of the album’s cloudy mood with “White Flag”. Well-written lyrics like “White flag rolled up nice and tight / I could break it out tonight / Leaving all this mess behind” let us know that this is not a girly album with cheesy lines. Instead, the songs are about her discontent with the ways of the world and the feelings one has when choosing not to follow the pack.

Musically, the album conjures up images of heavier bands like Tool that have been given a softer edge. The guitars and harmony parts within the album seem heavily influenced by such bands. The mood is consistent throughout the album instead of trying to hop around from genre to genre. This works very well for the group and is a fitting backdrop for Boeder. The artists have found a good blend of pop that helps them sound catchy without seeming radio-hungry. With nine tracks that go by quickly, they have the ability to stick around for a while even after the first listen. So if you’re like me and often not a great fan of female-fronted bands, you may want to give Sub Rosa a try. And if you do like female vocals leading the way, then this album is definitely for you.