This post brought to you by the surprisingly comprehensive Christmas album We Three Kings by the Roches. I spent the better part of a day off last week baking cookies while listening to it, and I dare say it was the closest to the holiday spirit I think I’m going to get.
For a taste, here’s a wonderfully 90s promo video, and a live version of “Deck the Halls” that you’re either going to love or hate (I love it):
I’ve been meaning to do a Roches post for a while now. I was in a blogging slump when I got into them a few years back, otherwise I would’ve done it much sooner! So please enjoy a humble sampling of these three sisters this holiday season—and then throughout next year and beyond, because they are a treasure.
The song that got me (and I suspect others) hooked was “Hammond Song.” It popped up in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist and I just couldn’t stop listening to it. Those harmonies! Maggie’s low alto!
Listening to “Hammond Song” will inevitably lead you to the Roches’ eponymous debut album from 1979, which has become one of my all-time favorites. But before that, Maggie and Terre Roche had already released an album—the gloriously folky Seductive Reasoning—which definitely deserves a mention. (Side note: I don’t know why I love this album cover so much, but I think it’s really great.)
Maggie and Terre also collaborated a bit with Paul Simon! He played guitar on “If You Empty Out All Your Pockets You Could Not Make Change” (such PS strumming, lol) and they sang backup vocals on his “Was a Sunny Day”. You’d think this connection would’ve been my gateway to the Roches, but instead it was just a very happy surprise to discover!
Then Suzzy joined the mix, and they came out swinging with this gem of a record (ALSO an exemplary album cover):
I am not a good person to talk about lyrics; I’ll listen to a song 100 times before realizing it’s about heroin or something. But the Roches’ lyrics beg to be listened to, whether a practical introduction to an album or all the best qualities of a winter coat or an “anti-war song that doubles as a science fiction number about an anorexic person”:
By the way, I’m sad there’s not better quality video of a lot of these performances, but so glad the video footage exists at all! I love that when they weren’t singing original songs in concert, they sang Handel covers:
The Roches made 11 albums together (including the Christmas album), and admittedly I haven’t listened through them all yet. The Roches and Another World are the two albums I own on vinyl, so I guess I’m biased towards those.
I think the general consensus is their first two albums, produced by Robert Fripp, are the best, with the others becoming more commercial and mainstream. But I am also a person who loves 1990s Rolling Stones albums as much as their 1970s albums (looking at you, Voodoo Lounge) and can’t say that I mind the synth pop production or weird music videos:
Sadly, Maggie Roche—too good for this world—passed away in 2017. She seemed like such a sweetheart (and so quiet! Quiet people are usually the best). Right about now is the part where I wish I knew what it was like to have sisters, or siblings at all really. Y’all better appreciate your sibs, even if you’re not in a band with them. 😭
I’m still exploring all of the Roches’ albums and spinoffs, so I’m fully expecting a follow-up post at some point. I will say, one blessing from this year was a beautiful collection of songs by Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. It was some of the most comforting music I heard all year. So I’ll leave you with this, while I go dive into more of the back catalog. Happy Chrimble!