The imagery conveyed Christian DeArmond and Helena Berlin’s three-song album made it tough to write a review instead of a story, even before I hit play on Rogues & Blushing Virgins. The description of the album intrigued me. “Three songs about swindlers, supplicants, and the bad blood between them. It’s troubled folklore… Americana in a foul mood.” Troubled folklore, I dig that.
I’ll try to avoid writing a story by saying I enjoyed reading up on their collaboration, and different takes on the album. Apparently, these songs stemmed from a drive the two musicians made through a small town and the images that Berlin envisioned; “a ragged woman standing on a bridge, calculating the distance of the drop (“Dive”); a young man watching her, weighing his moral obligation to save her, (“Dark Day Darling”); and a storyteller who swears the shit he witnessed in a solemn, churchy little town was all true (“Jericho River”).” I adore storytelling in music and love hearing backgrounds to songs, so I couldn’t resist by adding that information in. I loved this quote from Berlin as well, “Collaborative song writing is a bit like a murder ballad.” It describes the writing process that they used for this album.
Now, on to the music (which was not disappointing after what I read, whew).
The first song, “Dive,” hypnotised me within seconds. DeArmond’s spoken words came in with a sense of doom punctuated by piano touches and my voice fetish approved big time. I couldn’t help but get a Leonard Cohen vibe off this track. Enter Helena’s beautiful haunting backing vocals, and this track gave me chills, over and over. When some guitar hit around the two-minute mark, it was the perfect shred of dread that brought this song to a close soon after. It’s safe to say I loved this song, yep.
Next up was “Dark Day Darling,” and it had a lighter sound to it. However, with lyrics like, “Saw her drawing blood from the ground. She buried her misery down and down,” and each drum pound and guitar whine turning the tone into gloom, I was happy that the darkness was still there. I’m going to hazard a guess that Nick Cave was an influence because the track gave me the same dark comfort his music does. Not to mention, DeArmond’s voice in this track makes me liken to Cave as well.
The final song, “Jericho River,” had a more upbeat sound with a touch of rockabilly, but, again, that dark vibe shone throughout. An excellent guitar break came in at around a minute and forty-seconds, and I loved the little “yeaaa” just before it did. Dunno why, but I did. I just love the little things. The track was catchy, and made this album a three-for-three in my books!
What I really liked about this album is, how despite there only being three songs, Christian DeArmond and Helena Berlin managed to paint a dark musical canvas with tones switching up just a shade for each song as I listened through. I just don’t hear that often, or perhaps some acts may put one dark/sad song at the end of an album, (*cough* Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power) or smack a few randomly in, making me crave more or wishing it wasn’t even included. Rogues & Blushing Virgins, however, was just a great ride of progression. I’ve had some dark days man, and if you have too, you’ll definitely dig this album.
Written by Angie Radczenko
*edited by Danielle Kenedy