Nov 122008
Authors: Nick Scheidies

With The Fray from Arvada and OneRepublic from Colorado Springs, Colorado is experiencing a renaissance of earnest piano rock in the last handful of years. Now Fort Collins quintet Roe is throwing its hat into the ring with their latest release, “Letters and Lights.”

Roe is pulling out all the stops here in town to support the album, with a KCSU interview today at noon and a CD release party tonight at the Aggie Theater — but is “Letters and Lights” any good?

Well . it certainly isn’t bad. Roe has clearly put a lot of polish and a lot of love into their catchy, upbeat pop rock, and it shines through throughout the album, particularly with the early standout, “Mayday.”

The song — which is every bit as urgent and exciting as its name suggests — serves as a showcase for keyboardist and singer, Jake Epsy, who, with a jittery piano line and hushed vocals, delivers delectable lines like, “She told me everything except goodbye.” It’s also an example of Epsy’s fixation on relationships. Throughout, “Letters and Lights,” the group finds mixed suggest with everything from carefree love lyrics (“Come with me . And we could sail across the sea”) to vengeful ones (“If you cross my heart / I hope you die”).

Though it is cause for some concern that a talented band’s frontman can’t find any luck with the ladies of Fort Collins, “Mayday” is also indicative of even more concerning album trends. At over four minutes, the song is a tad too long, and its chorus never lives up to the promise of its captivating beginning.

“Letters and Lights,” consistently finds Roe building up tension with sprightly, catchy introductions only for the climaxes themselves to disappoint. For some reason, once all the instruments get going full-throttle, the song’s direction and appeal gets lost amidst the chaos.

Maybe that’s why the album’s most enjoyable moments come when the band keeps things simple. “Everything You Are” doesn’t try to be anything more than a fun acoustic ballad, but with an unforgettable melody and heartfelt lyrics about a girl who creates “silence on a busy street,” the song is a slice of simple, airy bliss. In the moments when Roe’s music isn’t covered with jumbled layers of instrumentation, a band with a keen sense of melody and powerful songwriting prowess emerges. So when Epsy sings, “Can’t you see the possibility . The start of something new?” the obvious answer is, “Yes.” Anyone can see that Roe is a band bursting with possibility — and though “Letters and Lights” is by no means a perfect record, it is most certainly the start of something new and promising right here in Fort Collins.

Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at

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