The seven songs included on Little King’s new album Amuse De Q are unique for many reasons. They possess the necessary versatility to work as part of a concept work while still retaining the attributes of outstanding standalone songs. It may be a bit cliché to some for Ryan Rosoff to build a whole album around documenting the experiences of Life During a Pandemic but, really, what else is he supposed to write about? A rousing aural document about his guitar collection? It’s dominated all our lives, to a greater or lesser degree, and will prove to be a rich source of material for, perhaps, years to come.
The songwriting and presentation alike fall well within my wheelhouse. I always believed, as a younger man and now, that guitar-led rock music is as capable as any other stylistic vehicle of conveying substance. Its added physicality, a byproduct of amplification and the instrument’s sonic texture, enhances its potential. The first song on Amuse De Q, “Bombs Away”, makes it clear Rosoff shares similar sentiments.
It’s an outright blast of rock guitar with accompanying drums and bass. The rhythm section is solid, but fleet of foot – bassist Manny Tejeda and drummer Eddy Garcia provide the song with a surging heartbeat. Rosoff riffs out with conviction, but his guitar work crackles with dynamism rather than one-dimensional power. He leads the band through contrasting passages of light and shadow with rambunctious energy and his vocals are rough-hewn yet emotional.
“Keyboard Warrior” is an angry rebuke of people who use the Internet to spread hate and misinformation usually without meaningful consequences. It packs even more of a wallop than the album opener as Rosoff’s lyrics give full vent to his indignation. Little King, however, is wise to mix things up. Dynamics are, once again, critical to the song’s success as Rosoff and his cohorts alternate hard-hitting guitar passages with restrained interludes. The solo is well played but a bit surprising; anyone expecting it to put some sort of enraged exclamation point on the song will be disappointed.
He continues following the same personal vein with “Set It Down”. His account of giving up alcohol after it began creating problems in his life he didn’t want to deal with has the same unvarnished honesty distinguishing his other material. It isn’t as guitar-centric as the earlier tracks and embraces Rosoff’s progressive inclinations more as well. Even if the song wasn’t noteworthy, you’d still have to admire it for the unabashed.
The title song is an unquestionable peak moment. Little King, despite the song’s running time, is working on a much larger canvas here. “Amuse De Q” has several “movements” built into the song, once again tapping into Little King’s progressive tendencies, and the sleek sweep the band achieves sends this one skyward. The core three musicians composing Little King demonstrate their impressive chemistry here as well and create the musical equivalent of a knockout punch. It will leave listeners exhilarated and reeling.
Amuse De Q stands a good chance as being remembered, by those who care to recall, as one of the finest personal musical statements arising from the pandemic. Rosoff doesn’t wrestle with the idea of timely songwriting, he’s quite comfortable commenting on the world at large. It’s all the better than he’s never strident and writes about the world today in a timeless fashion. This seven song collection rates as Little King’s finest release yet.
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