Style: Indie folk/pop; compare to Sara Groves, Denison Witmer, Over the Rhine
Top Tracks: "Like Wildflowers," "Two Worlds Collide," "Sometimes Love"
Just in time for Valentine's Day, after a four-year record-making hiatus, Rosie Thomas returns to the studio to continue charming listeners with her effortless, laid-back melodies. Since her last release—a 2008 Christmas album—Thomas has been given plenty of creative fodder. With Love follows a bittersweet two years, ranging from the highs of a wedding to the lows of an anxiety-producing thyroid disorder. Thomas says she "woke up one morning, and the sun shined in the window, and … the world felt like it was back on my side again or vice versa, and I finally fit in again." Here, she brings more unfailing honesty than ever and a versatility that proves this delicate vocalist can belt it out when warranted.
Lovely acoustic piano and guitar lines remain Thomas' go-to sound, but on With Love, she also experiments with richer, more soulful sounds on tracks like "Two Worlds Collide" and "Back to Being Friends." A more diverse repertoire gives her the opportunity to showcase her improvisational skills and a stronger side to her tender vocals. Rarely does one hear an artist perform quite so effortlessly, with no unconvincing phrases; Thomas seems to live comfortably within her songs. Friends Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion) and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) contribute their production and vocal talents, again showcasing the power of collaboration seen on Thomas' 2006 album, These Friends of Mine.
Like folk friend Sufjan Stevens, Thomas' Christian beliefs are organic to her songwriting. Throughout these ten musings on romantic, friendly, and familial love, its source is clear. As Thomas considers the mysteries of love, she seems content despite frustration at its comings and goings. Even while bemoaning the loneliness of waiting "your whole life for someone to finally take a chance on you and you're still waiting in line," she acknowledges, "If it's all about timing, then I'm right where I should be."
The album explores pure love through heartbreaks and missteps ("Two Worlds Collide"), through meaningful friendships ("2 Birds"), and through beauty and wonder ("Really Long Year"). The album's closer, "Sometimes Love," calls to mind Khalil Gibran's famous exposition "On Love," which reminds us that "even as [love] is for your growth, so he is for your pruning."
With Love seems to be not only a journey for the listener but also a celebration for Thomas, who has learned that while sometimes it feels that love exists inside a tricky concoction of risk and trust, its purest and most perfect form still lives in a place devoid of fear.
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