Album Review: Chelsea Rose – Truth or Consequences

[Paul Is Dead; 2022]

Were it not for a burst pipe, Truth or Consequences might not exist. After two successful albums, the work of indie-pop duo Summer Twins came to an abrupt halt after a pipe burst at Chelsea Rose‘s home, destroying instruments, amps, and other equipment. Rose decided it best to reconsider her path, and instead of re-grouping with her sister/bandmate, she went off to forge her own path.

Like with her work with Summer Twins, Rose enjoys taking sounds from the past as a backdrop for her words. Though she wrote a bunch of the songs that form Truth or Consequences with the intention of putting them on a Summer Twins album, she knew the fit wasn’t quite right at the time of penning them. Jumping forward a decade or so and favouring 60s/70s Californian pop this time round, Rose aims for something that sounds a little more mature. “I feel like Summer Twins was a younger version of me. This record is like an older version that has been through a little more,” she says of her debut solo album, and while it certainly sounds a little less frivolous, it often leans into its influence a little too much at times, sounding like an echo of better songs from the era.

“L.A.”, for instance, is yet another take on someone struggling to find friends and a feeling of home in the titular city. The sentiment might be real, but Rose’s take isn’t especially original. Over background chatter she laments, “L.A. is the loneliest place / Everyone wears a different face” before flipping it at the end with a forced smile (“L.A. is the most incredible place / Inspiration is yours to take). On the soft bossa nova groove of “Palm of Your Hand” she lulls herself into the background like an ignored band at a velvety lounge bar, while “Love Is Power” does the opposite, building from a shaky vocal loop into an evolving arrangement that includes a sun-smeared guitar solo and lightly brushed snares.

Where Truth or Consequences hits its best stride is the final two tracks. “Down The Street” is upbeat and likeable, showcasing Rose’s keen sense of melody during the chorus, while final track “Wishing You The Best” is a charming and starry kiss off to an ex where she sounds like she has the high ground, but could also be read as a comment on her career evolution. Then there’s “Fallin'”, which boasts a strong determination and dreamy chorus, but, while Rose pulls off the spoken word chorus with effective conviction, her lyrics are a little too trite for their own good. The wide-eyed adoration of new love is there, but the worst offenders on the lyrics sheet (see: “But I like you / And the way you kiss my hand / And hold it as you introduce me to your fam”) read like Hallmark drivel that could have used an external editor.

“Fallin'” then falls in the middle ground; it’ll leave some charmed and others unconvinced – just as most of the album does. The few memorable and standout moments aren’t enough to help hook you back to listening again, but if you do choose to stick with it or play it on repeat, then you might not be left entirely disappointed, but still left wanting for something more tangible to get your nails into. Songs like the dreamy “Let Go” or the plodding opening track “Eyes” are fine in passing but sound far away from an artist intently forging their own path. Instead, it’s that of a musician re-treading familiar ground and consequently singing themselves into the background.