Camera Trouble is the lush first full-length record from L.A. band Roses. Across 10 brooding songs, the drum-machined trio makes something fresh using familiar pop sounds from decades past. The reference points – from The Cure and Cocteau Twins to Adore-era Smashing Pumpkins and what feels like a million little things in between- are never hidden or obscured. And the record is stronger because of it.
Roses is three California boys: Juan, Victor, and Marc. They’ve been making reverbed dream
pop together since 2013, when Juan Velasquez, a founding member of late-aughts punk band
Abe Vigoda, met Marc Steinberg at a gay bar in Silverlake. They bonded over cool old music,
started jamming, and something clicked. Once Juan hit up Victor Herrera, a longtime friend
from the L.A. scuzzy rock underground, Roses became a living, breathing thing. The trio put out
a four-song EP in 2014, and played shows with DIIV, Dum Dum Dum Girls, and Wild Nothing. But it’s on Camera Trouble, out this fall on Group Tightener, where these three really come into their own. They’ve gained confidence, both as individual adult humans and as a songwriting unit, and the payoff is dazzling.
Produced by gear whiz and Zola Jesus cohort Alex Degroot, Camera Trouble is hinged on gorgeous contradictions. Human melodies unravel via effected guitar tones. Marc’s vulnerable delivery glides over statuesque drum loops. Contemporary anxieties mingle with retro textures. “Dreamlover,” a song about living in a world with the Grindr app, is built around a quirky New Wave bounce. “Julian March” pairs Nintendo synths with cynical, world-weary poetry. Do you think anyone really cares what you wrote on the wall? Marc sings, always crooning but rarely moping.
The title track, Marc says, is a big twinkling ballad about a specific sort of modern malaise: the kind caused by having thousands of digital pictures of yourself scattered across the internet. He wrote all the lyrics, and says assuredly that the record is “definitely queer.” It’ll click with all kinds of outsiders, though-especially ones who like detail-oriented pop and hooky, introspective melodrama. Maybe that’s be biggest contradiction of them all: this is unhappy music that will, strangely, make you feel less alone.