ALBUM REVIEW: Elizabeth Rose “Intra”

A full length release from Sydney triple threat (that is, DJ, singer, producer) Elizabeth Rose has been a while coming at this point and Intra is it. With an impressive roll call of collaborators, Intra is a wide and varied selection of electro-pop driven by Rose’s gorgeous voice and grounded by topical, thoughtful and occasionally political subject matter. Rose blends the topical (marriage equality, war, gun violence, social media anxiety) with the catchy, amid crunchy, popping beats and washed out layers of ambiance.

Intra starts off strong, though the M-Phazes-produced Shoulda Coulda Woulda is a somewhat surprising choice in opening track. Shoulda Coulda Woulda invaded airwaves and head-spaces alike late last year and placed Rose in prime position to get hella plays over summer. The problem with placing this incredibly catchy, beat-driven track not simply early, but as the first cab off the rank, is that there’s a real danger of missing the rest via a click of the repeat button.

Should you refrain from pressing repeat -and I suggest you do- you’ll slide right into In 3s. Decidedly even more pop in direction, In 3s makes perhaps the best use of Rose’s vocal capabilities and creates a fervent desire to dance with a feel good sense of self-assurance. It does a good job of hitting the nail on the head of self-empowerment, where the REMI featuring Playing With Fire, a track currently doing its rounds on radio, narrowly missed.

Piano-lead Kensho feels out of place, even when balanced with Division a few tracks later. Kensho is a purely instrumental piece that wonders dangerously close to filler territory. Division, on the other hand is a swirling track beginning much the same with piano at the open. It instead builds upon itself with layers of textured, defiant vocal tracks and washes of colour throughout. It’s particularly poignant, fitting then, that it is her marriage equality anthem.

Steel Hearts closes Intra and mirrors Shoulda Coulda Woulda as one of, if not the, best offering on the album. Where the first track opens with an instantaneous rhythm set to stick with you for days, Steel Hearts is a slow burn. It takes the opportunity to make a real showcase of those iridescent layers of ambient electronica hinted at earlier in the album. It’s a fitting end to the album, and a reminder of Rose’s greatest strength: her knack for melody.

Though Rose’s talent as a vocalist and producer with wonderful pop/electro sensibilities are undeniable,  Intra, it pains me so to say, falls short of the mark. There is an almost dead even mix of truly remarkable, all consuming tracks alongside a handful that find the listener wanting. It’s curious; the standout tracks aren’t simply standout because of their less impressive neighbours; Intra has a number of treasures to be uncovered within. However there are just as many gems which might have done with a more thoughtful cut and some extra polish.

Intra is out March 4th