Based out of Massachusetts, Gem Club found critical acclaim, and numerous television show placements, with their debut album Breakers in 2011. The follow-up, In Roses, was released in January and it's an album I needed to re-visit before it got lost in the shuffle of the never-ending new weekly releases.
Christopher Barnes is at the center of the group, the main songwriter, pianist and vocalist whose haunting falsetto carries these songs to another dimension. Vocalist Ieva Berberian and cellist Kristen Drymala round out the trio, but In Roses has been drenched in the orchestration of arranger/conductor Minna Choi of the Magik*Magik Orchestra, giving these songs a full, rich, cinematic feel.
The eleven songs here are all built around Barnes' piano work, yes they're all string soaked ballads, and they're gorgeous. This is an album you have to be in the right mood for, although the songs are lush and beautiful, they also contain their fair share of melancholy. Barnes has said In Roses is mostly a look at relationships, both ones he has had and some he wishes he had. Although the album needs to be experienced as a whole, personal favorites include the choir enhanced "Idea For Strings," the sparse piano piece "Marathon (In Roses)" and "First Weeks," which blooms into an orchestral piece in its second half.
In Roses closes with the emotional wallop of "Polly," a song Barnes wrote about his late aunt. At over seven minutes, it's the longest track on the album and it brings things to a stunning conclusion. Gem Club have crafted a 50 minute work of beauty, one of the early highlights of 2014.
Favorite tracks: "Polly", "Idea For Strings", "Marathon (In Roses), "First Weeks"
In Roses was released January 28, 2014 via the Hardly Art label.