Rosie Thomas’ When We Were Small is the type of record you pop on late at night as you head to bed just so you can sigh wistfully and wonder, “Why don’t I know this woman?” followed rapidly by, “Hell, why don’t I know any women?” Probably because you spend too much damn time listening to records and chasing down obscure films, but that’s beside the point…
Obsessive liner note junkies (hello) will recognize Thomas’ name as the guest vocalist on Damien Jurado’s Ghost of David or possibly from her time spent with Velour100 or a number of recent backing vocal gigs on albums coming out of the Seattle area (Suffering and The Hideous Thieves comes to mind). When We Were Small is her first full-length for Sub Pop, following close on the heels of a previous EP.
Thomas fits neatly into the current school of downbeat, melancholic singer/songwriters that seem to owe equal debts to Nick Drake and the Red House Painters. Though there are an awful lot of people jumping onto this particular bandwagon these days, she does it mighty well. Thomas landed her record contract in part due to her association with Damien Jurado, so it should come as no surprise to see some of the same backing musicians pop up here to a somewhat similar effect, though she opts for a much more atmospheric approach.
Guitars shimmer and weave, providing an expansive bed for her to stretch her vocals out upon, and make no mistake, it’s her voice that’s the star here. Thomas is the kind of performer that could sing gibberish and make it sound good, so it comes purely as an added bonus that she happens to be quite a solid songwriter. As you might guess from the album title, many of the songs seem bent on capturing memories of childhood and the innocence thereof, which give the proceedings the wistfulness that tinges the album from start to finish.
Written by Chris Brown.