Gena Rose Bruce – ‘Deep is the Way’ review: desire and despair in a slow, dreamy dance

The Melbourne singer-songwriter goes widescreen on her emotive, explorative second album

Gena Rose Bruce gives you mere seconds on ‘Deep is the Way’ before she slices through the ambience and tremolo-laden guitar chords. “It’s time to wake up / Stop calling it love”, she sings on the opening track ‘Future’ – sounding like the angel on your shoulder while coming across as the devil on the other. “It’s time to get real / I’m only hurting myself.” As far as scene-setters go, it’s as arresting and alluring as you could hope for – particularly when an undercurrent of drums and a subtle synth arpeggio shuffles in beneath Bruce’s trembling falsetto.

On her second studio album, Bruce is clearly determined to do things differently. It makes sense: The world has changed significantly since her tasteful 2019 debut ‘Can’t Make You Love Me’, and it only seems natural to adapt and evolve with it. While that album was largely streamlined into bittersweet folk-rock not unlike that of her contemporaries (Julia Jacklin, Laura Jean, Jade Imagine), ‘Deep’ showcases considerable artistic development that should significantly shift the conversation around Bruce and her music – while simultaneously starting some new ones.


The ambition and versatility plays out as the album progresses. ‘Destroy Myself’ is about as rocking as Bruce gets, pairing guitars that shred and bend with her pained, despairing delivery. Moments later, Bruce offers doe-eyed romanticism on the rose-tinted pop shuffle of ‘Foolishly in Love’. Here, she’s channeling The Cardigans – and not just because the song has both “love” and “fool” in the title.

The title track serves as the literal centrepiece of the record, and is the only song on the album where Bruce is joined by another singer. It’s a curious move on paper: Her personal journey across the record feels so singular at points, anyone joining in would feel like an intrusion. But you can’t help but by drawn to the striking contrast posed by the drawling baritone of US indie-folk veteran Bill Callahan. Though their voices may seem chalk-and-cheese different, they blend together amid the song’s lovelorn, folksy sway.

Various ordeals in Bruce’s personal life arose during the record’s creation: the death of her partner’s mother, the looming Melbourne lockdowns and severe burnout. How exactly did she survive? “I had some kind of rebirth in the darkest hour”, she croons on the ’80s-flavoured synth-driven ‘Misery and Misfortune’. “I was carrying such a heavy load / But now I’m free from my own / Misery and misfortune”. Though these lines are delivered with weariness, there’s also a freeing resilience in their tone – as though Bruce is defiantly singing of having lived to tell the tale.

As ‘Deep is the Way’ draws to a close, Bruce saves one of the most impactful moments for last. ‘I’m Not Made to Love Only You’ is the sound of a single glassy tear landing on a piano in slow motion; a ballad that channels Weyes Blood as much as it does Karen Carpenter. It could have dominated AM radio in the early-to-mid ’70s, yet feels just as at home here in 2023 – a sentiment that feels fitting of the album as a whole. Bruce possesses a timeless vintage, both as a singer and as a songwriter. On ‘Deep is the Way’, she’s unlocked a way to make something truly evergreen.


Gena Rose Bruce - Deep Is The Way

  • Release date: January 27
  • Record label: Dot Dash Recordings

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