Bewitching and assured; BRIT School alum Rosie sets a high bar for singer/songwriters in South London.
Friday 8th October 2021, 10pm
The Ivy House, Nunhead, London
It’s my first ever Friday night in London and I find myself buying a ticket to YOWL Presents: Rosie Alena & More on the insistence that a dear friend would be there to accompany me. £6 entry later and I find myself alone in a pub, about 80 minutes from where I am living – I am anxious.
The house lights dim, and the stage lights reflect off a red jumpsuit, casting a warm blood orange glow over the audience. ‘I know I’m irrational’ croons the singer in her opening number (Who Do I Call), and as the music washes over me I find myself at ease with my solo excursion.
Rosie Alena (b. 1999) is a singer/songwriter from London who, in her own words, ‘takes influence from Joni Mitchell and Angel Olsen to Tori Amos, Sufjan Stevens and Esperanza Spalding.’
Almost instantly I am impressed by Rosie’s commanding vocals and the fantastic balance from her band. The way that she confidently flits between major and minor harmonies in the first couple of songs (Dream Song) lets me know that I’m in for something that’s a little bit special; something more deliberate than what I’m used to.
Each of Rosie’s compositions has a slightly different feel to them, and the way in which she moves her body changes to reflect this. After a largely static opening number, she introduces more artistic movements in Sunday Evening, including a more demure presentation for Cruel Lover. These are decisions that feel natural but are done in a way that feels deliberate; a testament to Rosie’s experience as a performer.
My personal favourite ear worm (The Light) is a genre-bending fusion between indie, swing, folk, and country; the aforementioned Tori Amos influence does not get any clearer than right here. Playful changes in time signatures and dynamics over the course of the song take us from a tentative waltz all the way to a barnyard-rock feel complete with yodels; and I mean that in the absolute best way.
Rosie’s music is more interesting when the time signatures shift or even seem to stop entirely – her sultry and rhythmically playful vocals lend well to this 20th century impressionistic approach. Similarly, her voice would not be out of place in a jazz bar, and it is the skilful mixing of these worlds that I found to be extremely engaging.
Despite the music being very well-written and harmonically clever, including absolutely stunning implementation of complex string sections, the music does not shy away from pop sensibilities. Mixed Messages is a fun example of this, as the piece finishes with an instrumental outro reminiscent of Dua Lipa’s euphoric Be The One.
At the end of her new single (God’s Garden), Rosie asks the sound engineer “Can I have more of me”. This is totally normal for a live performance, but I like it because it allows us to see a little bit more of the fun personality behind the mysterious on-stage persona. I’m not asking for the whole loaf, but a few more crumbs of interaction would only benefit the performance I think.
Adore Me is the perfect end to this varied set. The songwriting is haunting and emotional, and her tone and vocal control is fantastic – essentially, it is a culmination of all of my favourite things about Rosie’s music. However, this time there is a sense of grandiose, a finality.
I loved it so much that I tried to find it on Spotify moments after the show ended, and was gutted to find out that the majority of what I heard is not officially out yet.
Rosie is currently busy creating music videos for her unreleased songs, whilst also performing in various venues around the UK and internationally. You can find more of @RosieAlena on Instagram, Soundcloud, Youtube, and Spotify.
1. Who Do I Call
2. Dream Song
3. The Light
4. God’s Garden
5. Sunday Evening
6. Cruel Lover
7. Mixed Messages
8. Adore Me