- The Portuguese artist delivers an introspective and slightly uneven debut album.
- In 1993, Bon Jovi's "Bed Of Roses" became a global smash, despite the fact that the lumbering power ballad was "kind of a shit song." Those are the words of Inês Borges Coutinho, the Portuguese artist best known as Violet. When she was nine years old, however, "Bed Of Roses" left her absolutely mesmerized.
16 years later, Coutinho's musical outlook has changed quite a bit. She heads the Naive label and is the cofounder of Rádio Quântica alongside her partner, Photonz. The two are also cofounders of mina, a Lisbon party that celebrates what it describes as "sexual and gender liberation." Coutinho herself has become an outspoken advocate for marginalized artists.
Coutinho made the tracks for her first album, Bed Of Roses, over the course of nearly seven years. She completed the LP in early 2019 while confined to her apartment, unable to walk after breaking her knee. That sort of isolation is enough to make anyone get a little introspective. (She's described Bed Of Roses as a "healing device.") The album is a departure from the breakbeat-fueled sounds that has powered her excellent run of recent EPs.
Coutinho tries a number of different styles here, from cinematic synthscapes ("Tears In 1993") and floaty ambient ("Never Leave") to playful techno ("Spectral") and something like hip-hop ("Half Crazy"). This gives Bed Of Roses something of a disjointed quality, though Coutinho ties things together with a gossamer production style and a generally dreamy mood. Even during the album's most intense and percussive moments, the atmosphere remains a bit blurry.
Coutinho strikes gold on "They Don't Wanna Know," a lo-fi take on Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis that combines a shuffling R&B rhythm with summery keys and a delicate vocal that nervously—but sweetly—sits low in the mix. Similar in vibe is "Glory Village," which shows a bit more pep in its percussion alongside soaring '80s synths and an electro-funk bassline.
Elsewhere, the results are more mixed. "In The Aquarius" nods to reggaeton and dancehall, but it's little more than a meandering drum track. "Fuck A Bully" gets mired in its broken rhythm. While neither track is a disaster, they are indicative of how Coutinho's intensely inward focus has drained the music of some of its urgency.
There's nothing wrong with making a personal record, and Coutinho is by no means obligated to churn out breakbeat bangers for the rest of her days. For sure, there's a lot to love about Bed Of Roses and its gauzy look into Coutinho's past. But it's hard not to wonder what an album rooted in her present-day reality might have sounded like.
01. Tears In 1993
02. Bed Of Roses
03. In The Aquarius
04. Half Crazy
05. Fuck A Bully
06. They Don't Wanna Know
07. Glory Voyage
08. Bed Of Roses, Pt. II
10. Never Leave