Album of the Week: Chastity Brown, 'Silhouette of Sirens'

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Chastity Brown
Chastity Brown, 'Silhouette of Sirens' (Red House Records)
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Andrea Swensson - Album of the Week: Chastity Brown, 'Silhouette of Sirens'
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It is a beautiful thing to be able to stop time.

When Chastity Brown sings, the wind takes a breath. Clouds hover. Waves flatten out and the lakes go still. Twitter stops updating. To listen to Chastity is to lose yourself completely in the sorrow, joy, yearning and wonderment of a hopeful voice that never stops searching; a voice so enormous and evocative that it seeps down past your skin and bones and settles right down into your soul.

While the rest of us scramble and do our best to stay centered in this hyperconnected, always-on world, Chastity seems to exist outside of it all, focusing her efforts on something greater: the quest for true emotional and human connection, and processing all of the overwhelming feelings that come from being fully present and completely alive.

"I feel so darn sensitive most of the time, like I'm a character in one of Octavia Butler's sci-fi novels whose sense mechanisms are acute yet vast," Chastity told me a while back. She's been reading a lot of Butler these past few years, and when she sings it's easy to imagine her as a hyperempath in one of Octavia's works; an exposed nerve wandering through a world of hurt.

How else to explain how, on her new album Silhouette of Sirens, Chastity can plumb the depths of sadness in a single note, then release it in the very next breath? How she can capture the utter despair of loneliness in a way that makes the listener feel so tethered and loved?

When I first met Chastity, she was writing these gorgeous, immersive, nine-minute folk epics, getting lost in the tone of her guitar and the endless possibilities of her voice and words. Over time, she has sharpened her craft, figuring out how to mix the pulsing rhythms of forward momentum underneath her sprawling melodies; the effect is like driving home after an epic journey, watching the sun come up and breaking into tears when an old favorite song comes on the radio.

"What is even happening? One can only guess," she sings in opening track "Drive Slow," embracing an uncertainty and sense of wonder from the beginning of the record. By the third track and my favorite on the record, "Carried Away," Chastity is carrying us along with her on a journey inward, pulling us into her mind at the very moment she reaches emotional overload.

"Can't get the key in the door fast enough / feels like someone coming from behind to shove / hands sweating, heart is racing / looking like I'm giving, looking like I'm giving up," she sing-speaks, falling into the repeated line, "Look what you did to my heart."

Like many masterful songwriters, Chastity has the ability to make her stories feel intensely personal yet open-ended; even in "Carried Away," it's hard to tell whether she's singing about a romantic rift, an abusive friendship, or the havoc that anxiety and depression can wreak on an unguarded mind.

By revealing her own experiences of loneliness and loss so bravely, it makes it easy for the listener to feel connected to her even in her darkest moments. "Don't leave me here all alone / For so long you've been my light in the dark," Chastity sings on the album's centerpiece, "My Stone," while the sexy, Prince-channeling acoustic funk jam "Whisper" beckons the listener to come closer, to dance with her in the dark, to "whisper in my ear all that you need." It feels like Chastity is whispering in our ears, too, reminding us that we are not alone and showing us how to keep searching for that light.

Resources


Chastity Brown - official site

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