Usually, a seven-year gap between a debut album and its follow-up would raise eyebrows aplenty, but in the case of Karen Elson, it’s not especially surprising. Fairly or otherwise, her career as a musician has never been top of the list of talking points when her name’s brought up; for a start, it’s not her primary pursuit in life, and she’s attributed the long lay-off to her ‘day job’ - modelling.
On top of that, it was difficult not to make reference to her marriage when she released her first album, ‘The Ghost Who Walks’, in 2010 - Jack White did, after all, produce it. Her musical ambitions have remained undimmed, still, and if ‘Double Roses’ is anything to go by, she’s got even more pals to call on - The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney produced two tracks here, and other contributors include Laura Marling, Father John Misty and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes.
Perhaps it’s turned out to be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, then, because ‘Double Roses’ feels weirdly half-baked. For a start, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a consistent vision; one minute she’s aiming for floaty folk on the likes of ‘Call Your Name’ and the meandering title track, and the next, things take a turn towards piano jazz - see ‘Come Hell and High Water’. There’s some peculiar instrumental choices, too, especially on the ill-advised journey into a baroque sound that is ‘Raven’. Karen is evidently a more-than-capable songwriter - the record’s highlight, ‘Wolf’, is an exercise in simmering drama with a pitch-perfect saxophone solo - but she hasn’t managed to effectively distill her many ideas into something that sounds cohesive After seven years away, that feels like a bit of a let-down.