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Album of the Week: Dessa, 'Chime'

Dessa, 'Chime'
Dessa, 'Chime'Courtesy of Doomtree
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by Andrea Swensson

February 23, 2018

'Chime' is a huge leap forward for Dessa. It's her most musically adventurous collection to date, combining the experimental pop approach of her solo work with the more aggressive, hard-edged delivery of her verses with the rap collective Doomtree to create a playing field where both string sections and trap beats can roam freely. Her lyrics, too, have branched out from the stories of heartbreak that defined much of her earlier work to include dissertations on feminism and her evolving role as a woman in a very male-dominated industry.

It's true that women -- in the music industry, in Hollywood, in the service industry, across America -- are in the midst of a movement and a moment, and Dessa's new work contributes several satisfying lines to that national conversation. "I'm here to file my report as the vixen of the wolf pack; Tell Patient Zero he can have his rib back," she scoffs on "Fire Drills," slyly tagging the biblical Adam as the originator of a centuries-long epidemic of patriarchy. "A woman's worth -- I think that she deserves a better line of work than mother***ing vigilance," she continues, amping up to a blazing finale. "That can't be what a woman is / That gives her nothing to aspire to / What that is / Is just a life of running fire drills."

While the blazing indictments of gender dynamics provide some of the most satisfying moments on the record, one also gets the sense that Dessa has been doing the hard work of building a stronger foundation for herself by looking inward and investigating her own pitfalls. As she demonstrated powerfully at her show with the Minnesota Orchestra last spring, a prolonged bout of heartbreak became so unmanageable that she went so far as to scientifically remove an unhealthy fixation on an old flame from her brain, retraining her synapses in search of solace. Musically, the result is that even her quieter ballads have taken on a new sense of self-possession and agency; as she sings in one of the album's many highlights, "Good Grief," she's been melted down, recast, and burned clean.

The result is an artist who is growing ever sharper, galvanized by her pain and empowered to tell the truth about the dark side of love, power, and hard-fought success.


Dessa - Official Site