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No Words Left (Communion)

Something this raw shouldn’t sound so gentle surely. On the other hand, something this gentle to the ear shouldn’t convey so much hard questioning and confusion, I’m certain. Yet here we are.

On her fourth album, Lucy Rose has few, if any, barriers up between us and her wondering if she really understands how people work. How she works. And why the hell hasn’t it been easy to figure this stuff out? “Conversation don’t come easy,” are the first words we hear. “But I’ve got a lot to say.”

She sings very close but not very prominently, her voice moving high and low but rarely wide as if the attention is focused but the idea is more ambivalent. Along with the obvious – you could say obligatory – strong touches of Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling, there is also Karen Carpenter and Rumer, all of them singers who are as comfortable in minimalism as taking over. Rose has never sounded better.

Piano and acoustic guitar are often the accompaniment of choice, though there’s a place for cello and violin, as well as a fluid saxophone in Solo. Even as there’s a Great Gig In The Sky-ish woman’s voice taking flight in Save Me From Your Kindness after a terse little violin move, the production places the pieces in relief, not centre of attention.

Nothing comes between us.

No Words Left is not a love torn asunder album; for a start, love is only one of the topics she seeks to grasp. Not least among the others is how does a woman manoeuvre through an industry, a world, ripe with casual as well as systemic bastardry.

It would be more accurate to say this is a life split into smaller pieces in an attempt to rearrange them better album, where the friend who listens the most may also be the one who lets you down the most, but you aren’t sure the alternative of holding it in is better.

These songs do not seek solace in confession, or excoriation for that matter; the revelations are in our common experience reflected. And few outside the sexists of Treat Me Like A Woman are painted in start black or white. Even in The Confines Of This World, as she sings “everybody’s telling me I’m losing my mind”, the song turns more on the need to share and a concurrent inability to convey the right feeling.

When the album ends with Song After Song, a track which suggests a meander but actually hews closely to its path, which offers a note of optimism in its almost jaunty refrain but subtly claws most of that back in a self-critical sideline that reminds me of Wilco, there’s a jolt that maybe Rose has ended the album with the best song here.

That feels odd at first, but actually, it ends up feeling right. We’ve been coming to this point, and the stations along the way have each served to lift us. It’s just that it happened gently.

By the way, Lucy Rose will be in Australia in June.

The Foundry, Brisbane June 4; Factory Theatre, Sydney, June 5; Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, June 6; Freo Social, Fremantle, June 8.

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