It takes guts to put “Rosa” in the title of your album and then lead off the title track, “OK Standby,” with exactly the kind of whangy guitar line that Joey Santiago would have laid down for the melody. The members of the Dead Trees are apparently not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, a fact which is proven repeatedly on King of Rosa. Though those looking only for a latter-day incarnation of the Pixies will be disappointed after the album’s first seven seconds, more open-minded listeners will be treated to a well-crafted, if not easily categorized, collection of songs that share the same inventive fearlessness as the opening number.
After a strong opening with “OK Standby,” King of Rosa does some traveling around the musical map, eventually settling into a comfortable slacker-pop stroll, “Shelter” is buoyed by its shout along chorus and the most endearingly injudicious use of cowbell this side of Christopher Walken. The album then reaches a high point with “My Friend Joan She Never Asks,” whose sound is not easily categorized but is achingly pretty nonetheless. Michael Ian Cummings delivers a gentle vocal over a simple, piano-infused arrangement. The confluence of the two is the lightning in a bottle moment that makes King of Rosa truly special and the act of discovering new bands so intoxicating,
The rest of the disc delivers variations on the first three numbers, all well-played and very listenable. Of particular note are the final two songs. “Twin Cities” pairs a droning electric guitar with melancholy vocals to nicely evoke a night spent wandering. “New England Skies” closes the album. A mere slip of a song, it starts with a count, builds slowly and eventually fades away. The song is immediately pleasant but fails to distinguish itself from the stronger pieces on the album. Though it might seem better without the comparison, that one can be made in the first place indicates the overall strength of King of Rosa.