August 20, 2012

and soon you’re 33 / and everything you tried to be…

Yesterday I turned 33; it’s my favorite age in a while because it is symmetrical and feels balanced. Since I like appropriate soundtracks, my brain yielded up two tunes to loop in my head yesterday that sing about my new age, as I get accustomed to it like a pair of squeaky-soled new shoes.

In the first part of the day, the Counting Crows lyrics at 17 had a better dream, but now I’m 33 / and it isn’t me took the lead in my mental symphony, and then was eclipsed by the opus “Welcome” from Canadian band Hey Rosetta!, where Tim Baker sings to a new kiddo about the life that waits in the wings. At the same time, though, he also sings to those of us who might need a readjustment to the knob that filters all the static and contrast:

I’m sorry this is it, it’s cold and hard and badly lit
and there’s no backing out of it
so forget where you’ve been, it’ll never be that good again
and we must only look ahead

and soon you’re thirty three, and everything you tried to be
is pulled apart by fear and greed
let young hands build you up, and carve your face in honest rock
with sunlight on your noble jaw…

Also in the last few weeks, the Blogotheque version of this song came onto my radar and somehow manages to be even more incredible (I mean, that clap-slappy syncopated percussion aside, even!) because it adds a special new verse to this middle bridge.

Welcome (Blogotheque version) – Hey Rosetta!

So I welcome you to it, sing ‘let the goddamn games begin’
the god that gives deliverance
has a thing for disappearing, kid
and the fighting on the beaches hit
and the 5am to Winnipeg
the nights of fights and poison pits
and the needle-edge of old regrets

but the wind will only shift again
and the breath beneath your epaulets
is strength enough to carry it

Deep breath, there.

So it starts with a fitting theme song for 33, but this unrolls into a pretty damn glorious landscape far beyond that: I’ve been on a colossal Hey Rosetta! kick for months — the torrential depth of which I have not yet told you fully about. Beloved in Canada, they remain relatively (and bafflingly) unknown here. So we need to talk about that today, because this is a band and a record (Seeds) that you need to listen to, over and over, thoughtfully and joyously and through all the needle-edges of old regrets as well.

Here are some thoughts on why Hey Rosetta! is important to me right now.

I was sitting on pebbly beach off the coast of Washington two weeks ago at the Doe Bay Fest, talking at length with songwriter Isaac Pierce about what music does; for us as listeners and for us as musicians. Isaac hit upon one of the most interesting distinctions that I’ve considered recently, when he talked about what music gives and what it demands. There’s a carefully-balanced tension there that’s razor-sharp, a tightrope walker who could fall either way but isn’t always sure the right way to lean. Maybe increasingly we want our music to give us more, without asking us to invest in return. In the same ways that porn pokes its shiny fingers directly to the pleasure-center of our brain without asking anything of us in return, our shimmery pop radio megahits substitute substance for slickness and don’t require much in terms of thoughtful unraveling. As much as it is fun to simply receive, the conversation with Isaac made me think about how my favorite music tends to push me back, to shove my shoulders a little bit and pugilistically jut their chin at me, a “Whaddaya got, Browne? what will you make of this?”

I find that the music of Hey Rosetta! is complicated, and I love that push-back because it’s keeping me interested. Listening to this record as a connected work keeps yielding up new threads that I haven’t plucked at yet, but am fascinated to give a go at. Their songs don’t follow a traditional narrative, but are instead constructed with multiple segments that seem to parallel life in all its crazy disparity and contrast — when you think you know where you’re headed, time signatures shift, and whole orchestral movements swoop into the middle to change the keel of the song completely.

The songs wend through complicated iterations that ask the listener to engage even as the pleasure-centers hum. Tim can write thoughtful lyrics laced with alliteration (“searching these serpentine streets for the signs of a spark”) and equal measures of introspection, scored by creative percussion and a whole host of instruments; the combination makes this record explode like roman candles for me.

Ever since a five-hour roadtrip I took on the spur of the moment in May (and listened to this record the entire time), I’ve been most stuck on the bookend pairings that I hear in the two songs on the record “Yer Spring” and “Yer Fall,” tracing the trajectory of a relationship. The 2:53 mark on this song is one of the best song moments ever, followed closely by 4:10 (but, IMPORTANT: listen loud).

Yer Fall – Hey Rosetta!

The band pays close attention the visual representation of their layered, anthemic songs through brilliant videos that I can’t stop watching, with goosebumps every time. If you’re visual like me, watch these, and then every time you hear “Yer Spring” you will see ballerinas and sparklers and sweat.



– I saw Hey Rosetta! at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC in March and it was just this ebullient and electric, and I think I sang along as loud as anyone. My only edit to this video would be that at 3:14, I really want the visual image to be a ballerina being thrown in a free-fall. Visualize it.

And then this video, which I have posted before; I still cannot get enough of this one. It might be my favorite video of the last few years, in all the wonderful ways they engage their community of St. John’s, Newfoundland. And I just love the knowing smile in Tim’s eyes at 4:47 when there is a whole town chorus behind him on the cliffs — but we don’t know it yet.


This record is waiting, patiently, to demand.


  • I recently moved to St. John’s. I had loved HR! for years before my move…

    Once you arrive here you realize that they are who they are because of those people and this place. It’s unreal. The music is truth.

    You should take a trip out to this odd paradise. It’s not hot and beachy, but your soul will thank you.

    Alanna — August 20, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

  • love this post so much. as you knew i would. very happy that you hear everything in hey rosetta! that i do. hopefully there’s a chapel session in the near future.

    saw hey rosetta! last week here at home. it was an incredible show, with yer fall a highlight of course. i’ll send you my video. the audio is great and the performance was spectacular.

    it’s time for the rest of the world to catch on to canada’s beloved hey rosetta!. thanks for this wonderful post heather. and happy birthday from the rocky shores of newfoundland.

    cindie — August 20, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

  • You’re so right on about Hey Rosetta! I’ve been digging them since Another Pilot, but Seeds is a triumph. It got me through a particularly rough spring last year. I still haven’t seen them – I need to fix that.

    Happy birthday! Here’s one more of my favorite “33″ songs to help you celebrate:

    she got confused about the truth.
    she came to in a confession.
    she got high for the last time in the camps down by the banks of the river.
    lord, to be 33 forever.

    she got screwed up by her vision.
    it was scary when she saw him.
    she didn’t tell a single person about the camps on the banks of the mississippi river.
    lord, to be seventeen forever.

    she got strung out on the scene.
    she got scared when it got druggy.
    the way the whispers bit like fangs in the last hour of the parties.
    lord, to be 33 forever.

    Jonathan — August 20, 2012 @ 9:51 pm

  • ooh, that is a great one, Jonathan. now i feel even more special; all these songs just for my new age!

    browneheather — August 20, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

  • Elliott Brood is another Canadian band that’s never gained the popularity in the U.S. that they deserve. I just love them. With the success of bands like the Avett Bros. and Mumford and Sons, I keep waiting (and hoping) for them to catch on here.

    Jessie — August 20, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  • Whoa. I agree wholeheartedly with everything that you said about Hey Rosetta, but never would have been able to put it into words so delicately as you did. Well done.

    Also, I love it when songs mention your age – it always makes you feel as though it was written just for you at that point in your life. I remember always listening to “Half a Person” by The Smiths when I was sixteen and loving that line “Sixteen, clumsy and shy / I went to London and I…”

    Currently, “Furr” by Blitzen Trapper is my age song. “On the day that I turned twenty-three / I was curled up underneath the dogwood tree…” Was so lovely to hear it live at Doe Bay.

    Megan — August 20, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

  • Your Hey Rosetta! experience mirrors much my own. My full obsession hit about 2-3 years ago and has maintained, after dominating all my music for weeks and weeks at the outset. I’m similarly drawn to the videos and performances, to the point that I showed the “Bandages” one above in a class I taught last year. I’m currently finishing my doctoral dissertation from CU-Boulder on government-financed funding of music in Canada, so I’ve interviewed and spoken with various stakeholders. When I told Tim after a show about my work, we immediately walked out the back of the venue and recorded a 30+ minute interview. Incredible band and people.

    Joe — August 21, 2012 @ 12:17 am

  • Happy Birthday! I am a bit past 33 but I remember the feelings as if it were just yesterday.

    Tom — August 21, 2012 @ 4:35 am

  • Glad to see one of the most talented bands featured on your blog. I read, I listen, I appreciate the bands you write about. Hey Rosetta is a hard working entity that produces music that seeps into your psyche. Tim is a great frontman, but any individual in that band holds so much talent and originality and creative strength that you can’t help but respect their art. They deliver amazing live performances, and what you hear on each album is what you get on stage. It’s hard to believe they have not gotten more recognition thus far.

    Deb — August 21, 2012 @ 8:05 am

  • Happy Birthday! A couple days ago, I hit 33 1/3 – even better! Just count out 121 more days and celebrate your vinyl birthday.

    Catfish Vegas — August 21, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  • I am ALREADY PLANNING IT. Marked it on my calendar yesterday!!!

    browneheather — August 21, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  • I was happily on the receiving end of that 5 hour road trip, and Hey Rosetta! was perhaps the most unexpected birthday gift I received that day (present company excluded). This album, most especially “Bandages,” taps that emotional center that both receives and gives what the song is demanding. Morphing and interpreting its relevance to my own nothing that weighs/weighed a fucking ton. I love the tenor of lightheartedness in the song and its video (wowza!), even though its message is a bit melancholic. Kind of like one of the best movie quotes of all time: “laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
    Thank you, Dolly Parton. And thank you, Heather.

    Michelle — August 21, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

  • “and even though / i thought i was / all alone / i was wrong.
    even though / i thought i was / all alone / i am not.”

    love you xo. You’re worth a 5 hour roadtrip any day of the week and twice on sundays.

    browneheather — August 22, 2012 @ 9:58 am

  • Heather, I really, really loved your post on Hey Rosetta!, they are one of my favorite bands. I got to see them in France for the first time on my birthday this year as I turned 33. And whoa, it was a such treat to hear this verse LIVE, the one you quoted at the beginning of your post, especially on that day :)

    (I’ve already said it, but it’s always so inspiring to read your blog, thank you!)

    Severine — August 22, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  • Heather do you know any of Hey Rosetta’s earlier tunes? “A Thousand Suns” and “Another Pilot” are two of my favoritest songs ever. Very Ben Folds. Love them and this blog post!

    Jessie — August 23, 2012 @ 7:07 am

  • I love when he jumps up from the piano at 2:40 and then jumps back:

    Jessie — August 23, 2012 @ 7:10 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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