The last week has been tough. You know when the world just gets you down and you’re crawling towards the weekend so you can cower and recover before preparing for another week? Well, that’s been me. Sometimes you don’t notice that you’ve shut yourself down, dulled your senses to dampen the impact of the next assault. Sometimes it takes an album to bring you out of it, to make you human again, alive again. Dessa’s Chime has been my saviour this weekend.
When I first listened to it, I felt nothing. It was “okay”, I thought, but that was it. Then I watched a film and that was worse, I met up with friends for drinks but felt blank, alcohol felt pointless. It’s fair to say nothing was getting through. I thawed over the Saturday. Cat cuddles, Shin Godzilla, love, and everything that makes life worth living attuned me to the person I’m supposed to be.
So I revisited Chime and heard it. Like, really heard it.
The beauty rang through me. The first track Ride that had earlier rustled through me like a light breeze now stood out, my heart feeling a little brighter with each beat. That deadness in me faded, vanquished by the onslaught of Dessa’s melodies. Each listen quickened my pulse and wrung adoration out of me.
Doomtree is the backbone of Doomtree, a rap collective I’ve followed since my life was illuminated upon hearing the track Bolt Cutter on a random playlist on Spotify in 2011 following the release of their sophomore album No Kings. Dessa’s vocals are always a stand out – mixing hip hop, poetry and singing often within the same song. Her vocal toolkit gets the full workout on Chime, which features some of her strongest and most personal work.
The lyrics to Fire Drills are a genuine highlight, with Dessa addressing the concessions women make every day to get by without unwanted attention or incident:
You can’t be too broke to break
As a woman always something left to take
So you shouldn’t try to stay too late or talk to strangers
Look too long, go too far out of range cause
Angels can’t watch everybody all the time
Stay close, hems low, safe inside
That formula works if you can live it
But it works by putting half the world off limits
Elsewhere, Chimes hits softer notes like Boy Crazy or (my personal favourite) Half of You, that are not only brilliant pop songs but stand up as strong as anything else on the radio right now. Produced by fellow Doomtree member Lazerbeak and Andy Thomson, who was nominated for a Grammy for his work with Taylor Swift, the two work fantastically here, bringing a sophistication between the dirtier electro and the lighter pop soul that shines throughout the album. The beats that underpin the album came from the various members of Doomtree, as well some from Dessa herself and two people she’s never met who responded to her call for submissions on Facebook. It’s striking, then, how cohesive the album is, with each track seamlessly flowing into the next. It’s personal, honest and true to itself. How rare that is these days.
Chimes was released on 23rd February by Doomtree.