When you use your middle initial in your name then you can only really be a singer-songwriter can’t you? David J. Roch is from Sheffield and after playing in Curbar, then emerging as Little Lost David he is now using his birth name, including that middle initial, for his latest album Skin And Bones.
By day Roch is an undertaker. This, together with the title of the album, hints at the brittle, darkly stirring nature of the music. Skin & Bones is being released on a label set up solely to promote his music and you can tell that Roch has put everything he has into it. This is an album that is shaded, bruised and dense, sometimes almost suffocatingly so.
This is a ‘big’ album. Big albums, big themes and a big voice. This ambition means that Skin and Bones is a record that you need to give yourself to. It’s ambitious, experimental and complex with a wealth of ideas – and instruments. Brass, electronics, organs, orchestration and stirring crescendos augment his piercing falsetto.
The range of his voice is spectacular. At times approaching Anthony Hegarty’s ethereal and captivating best, it is the thing that sparkles the most on the record.
And yet sometimes it can get too much. Even with this cacophony of sound the sense of earnestness can weigh too heavy, the solemn lyrics – see the title track’s lyrics ‘Don’t lose your soul as your eyes close shut… I am there with you’. The Buckleyisms can become cloying (hello, Evil Pillow), the earnestness too much. ‘Only Love’s’ marching band waltz is lovely but you end up craving a raised eyebrow and a bit of relief.
When the album does gel it really sparkles, creating something ethereal and extraordinary. The best tracks weave his voice and music together, neither stealing the limelight. The electronic cracks and backing vocals of Dew are all the more powerful for this balance. Opening track The Lost Child also soars, his vocals shine and the song builds into something truly captivating.
Skin and Bones is a record that highlights a talent which will entrance some but the lack of a lightness of touch and the heavy handed lyrics means it falls short of its lofty ambitions.
Words – Danny Wright