Alexa Rose wrote most of Headwaters in the early stages of the pandemic, which she astutely characterizes as having “that weird lucid feeling of not-time.” Accordingly, there’s an eeriness about Rose’s second album; listening to its nine tracks feels like stepping into a liminal space.
Where Rose’s debut record, 2019’s Medicine For Living (ND review), tumbled and twanged, Headwaters is softer and more hypnotic. The album’s central pairing of guitar and organ sounds fuzzy around its edges and covers each song with a warmly entrancing hum like what florescent lights emit. On the wobbly sounding “Borders (God Is a River),” there’s a ghostly beeping noise of mysterious origins, and the buoyant “Wild Peppermint” is a dreamy tune that could soundtrack your own daydreams and schemes.
Across Headwaters, time dissolves (“Don’t remind me about time. Ain’t this 1999?” she asks on the closing track, “1999”) and the only marker of existing is your heart beating. But in this liminality, Rose finds peace. She catches her breath, sorts through emotions and past experiences, and ultimately gains a better understanding of her present.
Rose wrestles with changes on opener “Clearwater Park,” a song filled with a sadness that will be especially cutting if you’ve drifted apart from a childhood friend, and on the standout track “Human,” Rose reminds us that it’s okay to struggle while also articulating a collective wish: “I want to believe truly everything’s gonna be okay.” “Pale Golden Flowers” summarizes so much of what makes Headwaters special. Its unhurried pace feels opulent and a playground for reflection and planning before you get swept up in whatever the future holds. As Rose sings, “it’s a hard lot of livin to do,” but you deserve a break too.