Fans of The O.C. will fondly remember Rooney as the first musical act to appear on the show. In a mid-Season 1 episode, the band performed “I’m Shakin’” and “Popstars” at a Newport Beach concert where Seth, Summer, Marissa, and Ryan were caught in a series of love triangles — a dramatic time in Orange County, to say the least.
After enjoying this early 2000s pop culture popularity boost and putting out three albums, the band decided to go on a hiatus. Rooney’s front man Robert Schwartzman, who you might recognize as Mia Thermopolis’ love interest in The Princess Diaries, took the time to explore other musical projects including a solo record, while other members left to pursue alternate endeavors. Now, after a nearly six-year break, the band is back with a new lineup and a new album, Washed Away.
Rooney Back Just in Time for Summer
If the album’s cover art — featuring floating palm trees, guitars, muscle cars, and the California bear laid over a sunset — is any indication, Washed Away is a feel-good indie rock record arriving just in time for summer. Every song on this album could find a spot on the soundtrack of a trendy CW teen drama.
The opening track, “All the Beautiful People,” immediately elevates the listener’s mood. Driven by fast-paced programmed drums, dreamy synths, and Schwartzman’s catchy chants, this is the kind of upbeat dance song you’d hear in Forever 21.
The second song and album’s first single, “My Heart Beats 4 U,” will have old fans falling in love with Rooney all over again. A slow and steady love anthem, this song is sure to have the whole crowd singing the hymn-like chorus, “We burn a little brighter / We fly a little higher / We move a little faster / Closer to disaster,” during live shows.
Throughout the album, and especially during the chorus of the album’s title track, Schwartzman’s voice is strongly reminiscent of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. Rooney actually hit the road with the iconic ‘90s garage rockers back in 2002. Featuring a grungier guitar presence and layered melodic vocals, “Washed Away” sounds like it could have been a hit off the Green Album.
One of the most memorable tracks of the album is its second single, “Why?” featuring vocals from French singer-songwriter Soko. A sing-songy, windows-down-in-the-car type of tune, this song does one of my favorite musical tricks of setting sad lyrics to an upbeat rhythm. It took me a few listens to stop tapping my feet and realize that the artists are singing about feeling trapped in the wrong relationship.
From start to finish, Washed Away leverages energetic guitar riffs, emotional vocals, and mature lyrics to explore the different phases of love. While the new album brings listeners the same sunny California vibe of Rooney’s old music, there’s no doubt the band tapped into a more sophisticated songwriting style during the break.
Rooney is embarking on “The Welcome Home Tour” this summer to promote their new album and get back into playing live shows for fans. You can learn more about Rooney, including upcoming tour dates, here or check out the new album on Spotify.