Hey Rosetta! Their Aim Is True

Hey Rosetta! Their Aim Is True
Photo by Scott Blackburn
An album is a lot like an arrow. You can spend years designing, crafting and perfecting it, but, at some point, you're going to have to let it go. And by the time it hits its target — or veers wide after wavering in the wind — it's out of your hands. "You're only in control of it for so long," says Hey Rosetta! frontman Tim Baker. "It's no longer yours, and you have to be okay with giving it up."

That might be particularly difficult this time around for the Newfoundland seven-piece indie rock outfit. Though the group have a habit of taking their time between albums — three years separated 2008's Into Your Lungs from 2011's Seeds — the wait for Second Sight, which was released on October 21 on Sonic Records, has seemed especially long. "We got to take our time with this record," Baker explains. "We've always been rushed in the past. We weren't going to worry about how long it took this time."

It shows. Second Sight's dozen tracks are delicately layered and feel fully developed, delivering the same touchstones — stunning chamber-pop arrangements, jubilant rock anthems, cathartic sing-along hooks — on which Hey Rosetta! built their name. "We've always had, and this record was no different, fairly ambitious dreams of what the songs and record would be," Baker says. "Every song, when you're writing it, could be so much. Then, when you finish it, it's a pale version of what you had dreamed of. Everyone knows how that feels. You never seem to get judged on your promise or your intentions."

Even if they haven't matched Baker's grand aspirations, Hey Rosetta!'s efforts thus far have been judged quite favourably: the band's last two records were shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. In that vein, ambition and unrealized potential (along with all those arrows) feature prominently in Second Sight's lyrics. The oscillating, slow-burning "Promise" tackles the theme, as does the jangling and upbeat "Dream."

Others take on different topics: the contemplative and atmospheric "What Arrows" riffs on predestined love; the brassy "Harriet" struggles to reconcile reality with the fictions in which we attempt to live; and the heartbreaking piano-and-vocal closer "Trish's Song" confronts death. Not that Baker has ever shied away from heavy subject matter. "I feel like a bit of a square sometimes," he admits. "But I just like to write about things that I find important, that I find moving. If it's not going to move me, I don't think people are going to feel it either."

Part of that writing process was eschewing everyday rationality and predictability for a more instinctive perspective — the sentiment that inspired Second Sight's name. "Part of my job, the job of the artist really, is to see things in a different way, with intuition, with faith and not giving over to the left brain like you usually do," Baker says. "Fuck the clock. Fuck all the things you have to do. And let's just be."