I was lucky enough to see David J Roch at the launch of exciting film/music venture City Sessions, which has been set up by the lovely Matthew Lawes (@mattylawes if you’re on twitter.) The video I’ve included is one of the installments from Matt and co’s City Sessions, check the rest out, here. Anyway, more about that another time, what follows is my review of Roch’s album, originally written for The 405, published here.
Say what you want about David J Roch but one thing is for sure; he possesses a pretty impressive set of pipes. Pretty outstanding actually, he can switch from bluesy baritone to soaring falsetto with not so much as a second thought – making his debut album one that can’t fail to make you sit up and listen.
The first track, ‘The Lost Child’ is as good a showcase of this as any. It starts quietly, just an electric guitar and Roch’s voice residing very much at the higher end of the scales – almost piercing, but as instruments join in so Roch’s voice warms up, leading to an impassioned chorus of “all I’ve got is love.”
Roch definitely appears to have adopted the wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve approach to songwriting. For example, in ‘Hour of Need’ he sings, “I’m so ashamed of what I’ve done and yet so afraid of what’s to come, you gave me up to be lonely with another boy” – making for a heartwarming and honest listen.
The comparisons are many and varied; Damien Rice is one, and there’s something Michael Stipe-esque about his delivery in songs like ‘Bones’. British Sea Power also come to mind, so it’s unsurprising then that Roch provided support for British Sea Power on their most recent tour and I can only imagine won himself a few fans in the process.
‘Lonely Unfinished’ is especially atmospheric mainly because of the use of a church organ, “love is splendid agony” goes the refrain, like a tortured medieval lullaby, and Roch uses his higher range to perfection on this track.
‘Dew’ is reminiscent of some of the more recent sounds of say, Zola Jesus or Hurts both of whom manage to make current music with clear 80s and 90s influences – proof that Roch has more than one string to his bow. ‘Devil Don’t Mind’ harks to a southern gospel sound and Roch has admitted he is a fan of this style of music and indeed jazz. Of course, he has put his own slightly macabre spin on proceedings here as everywhere, which results in the killer line, “there’s no point in being well behaved, when you’re stood in your own grave.”
These gothic undertones are common throughout the album and Roch is clearly a bit preoccupied by thoughts and ideas surrounding mortality – ‘Bones’, ‘Skin and Bones’, ‘Devil’ – all are darkly romantic and yet thrillingly uplifting. ‘Skin and Bones’ has single written all over it – close enough to anthemic folk to perhaps permit it some serious radio time ala Mumford & Sons.