Rose Kemp

A Hand Full of Hurricanes

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Although it's rather easy, and not at all inaccurate, to compare Rose Kemp to someone like PJ Harvey, a more precise comparison would in fact be to Jeff Buckley, specifically to the Jeff Buckley on Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, the collection of posthumously released demo tracks. The thing is, however, where Sketches was supposed to sound unfinished and raw, because it was, Kemp's A Hand Full of Hurricanes is meant, ostensibly, to be a finished product, and so the fact that often it seems as if things were recorded in one take, or that song structure was not thought out as well as it could have been, is not only a bit perplexing, it also takes away from the effect the album could have. The problem isn't that it's lo-fi -- that's fine -- it's that it sounds incomplete. There's little regard for verse or chorus, and combined with the singer's penchant for rhyme-free lyrics and sudden chord and rhythm changes, not to mention that most of the songs are in similar keys and use similar chord patterns, it becomes difficult to distinguish the tracks from one another. This is unfortunate, because Kemp, like Buckley, has a powerful, emotive voice (particularly evidenced in the two a cappella pieces, "Sister Sleep" and "Tiny Flower") and Kemp, like Buckley, plays spacious electric guitar chords that end up sounding supremely dismal and yet redemptive at the same time, all of which can get a bit lost in all the wandering about she does. There are moments, of course, when things come together very well, like in "Violence," which starts off excellently, a lightly intense guitar riff and simple, quarter-note-centric drum (like the "ticking of the clocks") backing up her vocals. Her delivery and her melody fit the song perfectly, and even the break into the harder B-section is appropriate. But Kemp can't quite finish things off, can't quite figure out what needs to happen next with the song, and so it moves from part to part without going anywhere and never returns to where it needs to be, the potential energy not finding a way to release itself and become kinetic. Buckley, too, could fall into this trap of undirected wandering, but there were enough pieces, even on Sketches, that had cleanly organized sections that his foray into the unstructured was an exception rather than the norm. His most famous single, the well-constructed and wonderfully catchy "Last Goodbye," shows off this ability, this approach, and so then it should perhaps be of no surprise that Kemp's most structured song, the only one that follows the clear verse-chorus-bridge formula, is titled "Sing Our Last Goodbye." "I'm losing my grace," she sings as a harmonium plays out a slow waltz. A Hand Full of Hurricanes, however, while probably the best Buckley imitation ever, is not quite up to the genius of Grace yet.

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