I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes
May 31, 2019
Rose Hotel’s 2017 EP, Always A Good Reason, was passed around like a secret in music scenes and college towns from Athens, Ga. to Bowling Green, Ky. The stripped-down intimacy was equal parts introspective and wistful, recalling a distant era when voices like Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris cut through the hiss of A.M. static.
Rose Hotel's forthcoming debut LP, I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes, offers a polished, full-band sound, which is a striking evolution from the lo-fi, bedroom origins of Reynolds’ first recordings under the moniker. The fuller soundscapes highlight Reynolds’ captivating vocals that at times feel like rocks to the stomach, giving the listener a sinking feeling and drawing them in. Like that grade school truth about pressure over time, the sum of her vocals on the record form a pressure that presses it into a solid, glittering whole.
I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes maintains the candid vulnerability that has defined Rose Hotel’s fledgling songbook, but this go-around Reynolds recruited a slew of collaborators. The album was recorded and produced over the course of 3 months with Atlanta producer Graham Tavel at his home studio, where Reynolds spent time between jobs tracking, recording, and mixing.
In the months before going into the studio, Reynolds’ had been playing her songs with a band of tight-knit Atlanta musicians and wanted to capture that sound for the first full-length Rose Hotel release. The album features 11 different musicians from Atlanta’s emerging indie scene — members of Material Girls, Neighbor Lady, Shepherds, Karaoke, and Palm Sunday — with various musical contributions that include flutes, trumpets, vibraphone, background vocals, and more. The result is more sophisticated instrumentation that builds upon the sparseness of early Rose Hotel releases, creating a full-bodied sound that reflects the bolder confidence Reynolds possesses as frontwoman.
In the midst of these collaborations, Rose Hotel displays an accomplished sonic progression on I Will Only Come If It’s A Yes. From “10 K,” the record’s shoegaze tinged opener, to the 1960s girl group-inspired “Would You Believe Me,” to rollicking highway rocker “Running Behind.” Though Reynolds flexes new creative muscles, tracks like “Jamie” and “Blue Light” resemble the three-chords-and-the-truth authenticity of Rose Hotel’s first songs. The record’s shift in style offering a return to Rose Hotel’s minimalist roots, which painted vivid grayscale vignettes of longing and remorse.
“It’s a record about running from nostalgia, but also leaning into it. It’s about transitioning through life, learning from the different phases we endure,” says Reynolds. “Rose Hotel will always be a shapeshifter. Sonically, I want to sound modern and relevant to what I’m listening to and loving now, while also nodding to and gleaning influence from the older music that resonates so deeply with me as a musician and a woman.”
A lush debut, I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes is underpinned by a newfound charisma and sharpened lyrical world-weariness. From the project’s inception, Reynolds has honed in on a natural knack for processing complex emotional landscapes in precise, plaintive language: lines that are sweet on the surface, but soul-bruising on the second listen.
“Nearly old enough but too young to understand / Time isn’t slowing down and I see wrinkles in my hands,” Reynolds’ sings on opener “10 K.” The deceptively dark lyrics juxtaposing the song’s bright soundscape.
Reynolds’ vagabond spirit heavily influences her storytelling, which dissects crumbling relationships and the disorienting feelings of striking out on your own. Having attended 11 different schools, these have always been underlying themes in her life as she's never felt tethered to one place for long. The majority of the record was written after Reynolds relocated from Bowling Green to Atlanta in 2017, from a conservative college town to a sprawling Southern metropolis. These songs recall mercurial romances, but also uncertainty and even relief in the geographical separation from her old life. There are no vengeful kiss-offs, or even answers to the questions riddling Reynolds’ psyche, as she packs her belongings and heads 200 miles south. Rose Hotel’s lyrics possess a keen emotional intelligence, her most striking songs delivered from an old-soul’s heavy heart.
Rose Hotel’s wandering ethos is most evident on album closer “Running Behind.” Reynolds uses blurry snapshots from her youth to piece together a narrative of nostalgia, offering a bittersweet glimpse at love lost and putting a millennial twist on the stereotypical theme of the freedom of an open highway. The Atlanta transplant sings of images burned in her brain. Reynolds recalls the coins she wished on in vain on some urban side street. She tells of dark winter mornings when her dreams of worthlessness awoke her. The most poignant: a mental image of an old flame asleep while she drives into a barren stretch of interstate.
“The passenger seat it always reminds me of / The years that I spent but never could get caught up,” sings Reynolds.
“I think I use songs to ask questions,” Reynolds explains. “Was it right? Would you believe me? Won’t you write home? Do you think you could do better? Did you only hold me to pass the time? Much of the record is me asking lots of questions, attempting to find the answers, and fully-well knowing that they may never come plainly. Perhaps, in some way, the title to this album is some semblance of an answer to all the questions therein.”
—Bio by Sam Osborne
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