Rocky Votolato: Television Of Saints


On his latest offering, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato doesn’t wax poetic about dreamy situations, but instead keeps things as stripped-down as possible. The end result is a short 10-track album that will have you hitting repeat without any hesitation: both because you’ll want to take back in the magic of the record and because there are few missteps across the whole work.

On the opening number “Little Spring,” Votolato is unaccompanied, driving the song with his fervent acoustic guitar picking and offering a light, hushed harmony to the already catchy melody. Although the theme is fueled by driving, there isn’t much summer-y feel here, instead leaning more in the vein of Simon & Garfunkel’s "America." “Ghostwriter” continues the aesthetic with its gentle, strolling style backed by a pleasant drumbeat. Instantly hum-able and swaying, the tune comes to life well within the first 30 seconds.

The first less than stellar effort might be “Above The Water” featuring harmonica and a cozy, campfire setting vibe. It’s a little derivative and doesn’t feel as innovative or intriguing as the other work. Thankfully, it’s a miniscule setback when “Sunlight” shines from beginning to end, another stellar roots jewel with Dave Barker adding drums and percussion to the number. Although it’s tough to select one song here that rises to the top of the heap, it might be “Start Over,” which seems to encapsulate what Votolato offers: sweet vocals, catchy melodies and an aversion to any kind of needless padding or production.

What might detract some is how simple some of the arrangements are, exemplified by “Fool’s Gold.” Here Votolato has a basic framework that at one end could be light pop but at its heart is alt-country or roots. It’s not incredibly challenging or sonically jaw-dropping but it’s beautiful and compelling. And while he plays it generally close to the vest, Votolato sounds at his most vulnerable on the title track which is accent by some sparse but pretty electric guitar compliments of his brother Cody Votolato. As for the homestretch, “Writing Fiction” is another heartfelt tune with him belting out the closing lines with a slight rasp in his pipes.

Finally, the singer concludes with “Crooked Arrows” which perfectly bookends the record and its opening track. Despite being a tad more fleshed out and meatier, the track brims to a pop rock surface but never quite breaks through, content just nearing that climatic point. Overall, Votolato has delivered another gem of a record, one which should be on year end lists without much question.

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