Coming from a guy who once lived in a deserted piano factory and overheard daily drama – including neighbors’ porno shoots – the cinematic overtones of Somerville-based Gem Club‘s In Roses (both in the lyrics and the music itself) seem fitting.

Much like lead singer Christopher Barnes’ everyday life, the seemingly random figures gracing the cover of the group’s latest release pair well with the dream-like sound of the group. Truthfully, the faded, pastel-colored cover may mean a simple glance-over, but like the tracks themselves, the cover requires a double take; mysterious modifications of the ordinary objects in the artwork leave us curious.

Throughout the album, smooth cello brushstrokes sweep away light piano keystrokes, and Barnes holds out syllables, turning his voice into an instrument itself. Though lyrically sparse at times (“Polly” only has twenty-something words, while “[Nowhere]” and “QY2” are purely instrumental), the space between verses doesn’t seem empty.

The appropriately titled “Soft Season” starts out with the whisper of a low cello tone – so quiet, in fact, that you may think the song hasn’t started yet – gradually building with piano and an underlying bass drum. It dies down, ambient sound abound, until it swells again, building in a stronger, defter beating of the drums.

Many of the tracks are filled with ambient noise, proving the perfect soundtrack for the wandering minds of daydreamers. Sometimes the tracks linger a while, but more often than not Gem Club introduces something new, catching your attention as your mind starts to drift (“QY2,” looking at you). This album makes me glad portable formats exist – I took it on a run on a beautiful break from the grungy winter weather, and it transformed exercise into exploration.

Album Review: Gem Club - In Roses
  • Pleasantly calming yet curious
  • Cohesive album, not just a collection of singles
  • Songs can drag on a bit
  • Somewhat similar sound
8.7Overall Score
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