On Rose Mountain the Screaming Females explore new terrain (for them) as the New Jersey based trio go cleaner, focusing on verse-chorus-verse song structure and melody. In moving towards more “accessible” rock they have shockingly added a new and exciting dimension to their sound.
The band (Marissa Paternoster, Jared Dougherty, Mike Abbate) have actually been at this for ten years now (the excellent Baby Teeth was self-recorded and released in ‘06) and while their profile has grown massively, their sound has primarily remained the same; a mix of punk and arena rock with flashes of noise and groove. When it was announced that the band was working with producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, The Sword) a metal lean seemed to be the obvious next move.
Then the band went and confounded expectations releasing the most complete offering of their career which tones down the raucous wails but hones in on more mature songwriting and delivery. Paternoster’s guitar will always garner attention (with great reason) but here it is her lyrics and beautifully restrained singing (not vocal ticks/tricks) that illuminate the tracks.
Writing about suffering under chronic mononucleosis, Paternoster cuts down her inflections to focus on the lyrics which are forthright. The shredding “Ripe” directly deals with the actual medical pinching and prodding frustratingly going nowhere and the literalness continues in the gore ridden, clanging “Broken Neck”.
While sickness is omnipresent this is not a dark album musically, quite the contrary as it contains the prettiest tunes the band has recorded to date. The lyrics may be twisted, but “Wishing Well” is a melodious romp that is catchy as all hell, injecting a sunshiney summertime on the Jersey boardwalk vibe (circa Springsteen’s The River) to the proceedings. The title track pounds to start before getting delicate, even adding backing vocal “ooh’s” before a haunting piano outro.
“Hopeless” has bedridden trauma in the lyrics (doubling nicely as a breakup tune) but it is the restrained playing, leading to a big ending, that drives the song home. “Burning Car” simply cooks from the drop and “It’s Not Fair” is in such a sweet pocket that it leads to the only negative on the album in wishing this track was longer and even more flushed out.
The low end still motors expertly (see the killer groove in “Triumph”) and guitars get sludgy (“Empty Head”) and then euphoric (“Criminal Image”) but in the end this album is more about the band as a whole evolving; Paternosters sickness seems to have rallied them and the results are gorgeous.
Rose Mountain never feels false or soft, and while it is an obvious break with their past style, it is more confident than a simple transition album. For the first time the studio has become a place where the Screaming Females have evolved beyond just trying to replicate their barn burning live act; at once delivering and still promising more to come.”