There is nothing simple about the music of Daniel Rossen. Regard Shadow in the Frame, (linkable below,) a recent single that features the beautifully complicated interweaving of Rossen’s own guitar playing with harps, bassoons, violins, and other orchestral instruments. Even the shifting tones of the song are complex. His voice, always smooth and melodic, ranges from quiet and conspiratorial to loud and large, and then back again to a soothing hum.
Genre lines are thoroughly blurred. Rossen weds together folk/rock with something like sweeping classical music for a sound that flashes and fades. He has always used crescendo masterfully; intensity and expansiveness are his secret weapons. The result here is a song of epic authority and even majesty. One clear message that we can take away: chamber music has an evergreen vitality when it is in the hands of an intelligent artist like Rossen.
Perhaps the specific messages of Shadow in the Frame will become clearer in the context of a whole album when Rossen releases his first solo LP, You Belong There, in April. For now, the song’s mysterious lyrics are challenging and portentous; the introspection of a man who has stepped back to assess himself now, and to look toward the future. He sings cryptically of fate, truth, and of “the earth shaking miles below.” Throughout, he hints at final chances and opportunities taken or lost. The listener is left to make sense of the song’s meaning. But it is sometimes enough to let the gorgeous intricacies of a song carry you along. It is more than enough here.
Rossen himself played many of the instruments featured on You Belong There, and is accompanied here and there by other musicians. Notably, the whole sound owes a huge debt to the playing of drummer, Christopher Bear, Rossen’s collaborator in their past work as co-members of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles. Bear’s effect as a percussionist is both strongly foundational and splendidly ornamental. This music is so ambitious in its scope, so generous with ideas, and for this listener, very welcome.