A tour de force of genre hyphenism set to heartrending tales of love, loss, and family. Dey Rose confirms what we’ve known all along: she is a genuine musical treasure.
I have a pretty intimate grasp of the Dey Rose catalogue, by virtue of this writing gig. I have taken apart most of the advance material from “Evelyn,” which is finally being unveiled today. As a result, I have weird take-your-kid-to-school feelings of stewardship over these songs.
Sure, on a typical day, her music wouldn’t be my cup of tea. But it is, it can be argued, my cup of *something*, and I feel this can be true for other people, too. In social media phraseology, “Evelyn” is the record you “didn’t know you needed.”
It’s personal of the good kind. It doesn’t rope you in; it invites you, preps an extra table setting, lays down the guest flip-flops. In short, it makes you feel at home, and it’s the best argument for the personal being the universal.
An album on “love and life”—both having their attendant “highs and lows, beginnings and ends, hopes and discouragements,” as Rose shares in an advance release—“Evelyn” is also a metaphorical hand-me-down book. Depicted on the cover is, in fact, Rose’s dad’s literal songbook (replete with song sketches dating back three decades), one Rose both pored over and poured over, an active agent in the realization of a once-tentative promise.
Once handed to Rose’s mother (the titular muse of these songs), she is now handing it down to listeners with the emotional urgency of a memoirist and the big-picture adventurism of a baton-wielding musical visionary.
“As many of my family and friends know, my dad is the reason why I make music. He thought me a lot about it and songwriting. And since the day I started writing on my own, I’ve always wanted to write with him and have a collaboration together,” Rose shares about the project, which germinated in 2021 and whose budding potential was first made evident in the magnificent, wistful “Mahiwagang Tsubibo.”
“From there, the collaboration that my dad and I always talked about was formed,” the Vancouver-based musician says, adding how, in practical terms, “Evelyn” also serves as “a compilation of songs we wrote together since I was a little girl, songs that he wrote decades ago, and songs I wrote myself over the last fifteen years.”
It’s an expansive almanac of aches, hopes and regrets, told in ten songs that parade like an imaginative wardrobe change. The short of it is that “Evelyn” is, musically speaking, a Filipiniana-Americana hybrid with hair- and alt-rock undertones, but even those appellations don’t feel sufficient.
I’m happy to revisit and reconfirm my gut reactions to these tunes: the Gothic accoutrements of “Without You,” the Western-meets-campfire soul of “Hurricane,” the kundiman-meets-arena stylings of “Mamahalin Magpakailanman.”
There’s an effortless accessibility in previously unreleased tracks like “Love Song” and the titular “Evelyn”; a mysterious foreboding in “Forever and a Day” and “Trapped”; a melancholic finality in “Saying Goodbye” and “Maling Akala.”
But more importantly, I’m thrilled to consume the ace musicianship in them: always with much care, but also with a healthy dose of abandon.
It’s all masterful playing, but also crafty when it comes to chipping at the surfaces, which is to say, knowing when to step to the wings and give the narrative its moment under the light. Which is again to say, as far as autobiography goes, I’m sufficiently piqued with Rose’s mythologizing about her mother (and their family), but I’m cool with the emotional caesura and the dangling sentiment.
“Things happen, things change, life throws a curveball that sometimes people don’t expect, [though] in this case, I always had a sense of anticipation. And in life, more often than not, relationships fade and people grow apart,” Rose expounds, dusting off the crumbs, smoothing over the veil but not quite nudging it away.
“Evelyn” is out today, and it’s a sprawling listen. Spin it today.