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Rosemary & Garlic – A Room of One’s Own Review

Dreamy chamber folk delivered in one of my favourite albums of 2023.

What does Rosemary & Garlic sound like?

Rich, warm and luscious poetic acoustic folk.

The review of Rosemary & Garlic – A Room of One’s Own

Inspired by Virginia Wolf’s poem of the same name, there has been quite a shift in the acoustic-driven folk that Rosemary & Garlic creates. As Wolf explained nearly 100 years ago that a woman needs money and a room of her own to write, Anne van der Hoogen has moved out into the Dutch countryside to start her music afresh. Now a solo moniker and not a duo, Anne has kept the core sound of Rosemary & Garlic but expanded it into a sophomore album that feels more plugged than previous releases.

photo of Rosemary & Garlic
Rosemary & Garlic

This expanse of sound is made clear with the symphonic opener ‘Midlands’. Not only do we have electric guitars but synth brass and real string arrangements seep in too. Nothing replaces Anne’s absolutely sublime, soft warm vocal delivery but it is clear the world around her has a fresh lick of paint to it. Even the drums sound clearer and more dynamic this time around. This dynamism translates across to the acoustic folk numbers too. Whilst the instrumentation and production are similar to previous releases, it sounds more colourful. ‘Their Eyes on Me’ has a beautiful piano hook that cascades over the calming vocals whilst warm late-night sunset synths coat the rustic guitars and drums cinematically. We have the Cardigans-sounding folk-pop of ‘Goodbye’ that has radio riffs in every bar. It has the potential to become a summer sleeper hit with its breezy vibes. Is this what Rosemary & Garlic sounds like at her happiest? Possibly.

Whilst often singing lyrically complex thoughts about bittersweet life moments, ‘Summer’ is a warm affirmation of resilience. The acoustic guitar leans into an upward hopeful melody and as Anne sings “I’m not leaving, I’m not…” other twee instrumentation adds sweetness and innocence to the music. If I were to describe Rosemary & Garlic’s brand of folk I’d say it’s sentimentally bijou but with an honest hug. Tracks like ‘Television’ show this off best with its layered vocals, in-room piano recordings, mellotron-sounding organs and dainty demeanour. It is rare to have a musician that has an exacting place for every single sound without it sounding disingenuous. That’s what makes her sound and this album work so well.

The second half of the album showcases the melancholic side of Rosemary & Garlic. ‘The Murmur of the Sea’ is devastatingly beautiful. It has glassy pianos, long reverbs, aching cello pulls and some beautiful vocal moments that invoke Enya at times. ‘Alfie’ has a soaring chorus which sounds like a haunting carol at times. The use of strings as a bass element gives the track drive and lets all the melodic instruments shimmer on high notes. ‘Caught in a Dream’ is a mournful track that would belong perfectly on the ‘Kingfisher’ EP. The muted distant drums, layered vocals and deliberate piano plod in the verses give the song a lethargic, dreamy weight. The final chorus is incredibly satisfying too. Various instruments emerge from a foggy background to give a more ensemble finale. ‘American Boy’ closes out the album with a return to the acoustic folk full circle. Nimble acoustic guitar, yearning strings, creaky piano and Anne’s angelic vocal front and centre – nothing else is quite like it.

My only extremely minor critique of the album is the two brief interlude pieces. They are nice but over too quickly, which I guess is why they are interludes! They don’t sound like transitional interludes, which is why I questioned their appearance. Instead, they sound like songs in formative stages. I wonder if they’ll return in the future…

It’s an extremely silly nitpick in what is a stunning album. Rosemary & Garlic have delivered with every release and this is no difference. Going it alone, Anne van der Hoogen has proven she can do absolutely everything on her terms and craft her songs without support. She has such a distinctive and timeless voice that I can never tire of listening to – she could suit any decade of folk. ‘A Room Of One’s Own’ is one of the best albums released so far in 2023 and one of the best chamber folk albums released in the last five years. Superb.

Recommended track: Midlands

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Rosemary & Garlic - A Room of One's Own



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