Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The 2011 debut album Little Golden Book by Chelsea Nikell (aka Princess Chelsea) was an Elsewhere favourite for its subtle blend of coquettish and slightly childlike charm with an adult sophistication. Nikkel sounded like an adult in child's body, and sometimes vice-versa.
As Elsewhere has noted however, that didn't translate effectively at this year's Laneway where she appeared mannered and deliberately gauche . . . but this album is yet another step up from that impressive debut. Musically the layers are more refined and lyrically she is taking the same skewed look at relationships and life through slightly rose-tinted or jaded lenses.
This may have many reference points in pop electronica from the synths (Kraftwerk if they were less glum, a quieter Pet Shop Boys but also slightly kitschy Seventies moog albums) and contemporary pop. But with piano, sometimes searing electric guitar and disconcerting psychedelic effects it also obliquely refers to Beatles-pop from that strangely off-kilter time between Sgt Peppers and The White Album.
Or on We Are Very Happy a synth part straight out of Kitaro before she floats in with her featherweight vocal, "Despite everything, I think I still love you . . ." It is a beautiful song about the price of betrayal and how the hurt can never be truly healed.
The theme of sadness in relationships is also explored on the equally moving When the World Turns Grey. Her gift to is in neatly sidestepping what could be shallow irony. Her songs and delivery are convincingly personal, even if they aren't.
She also sounds vocally stronger here than her live showing suggested, much more confident on material like the ineffably catchy No Church on Sunday and We Are Strangers which opens with distant Jonathan Bree (possibly, I only have a stream to work from) in baritone mode before she too comes at you from a long corridor like a spirit figure.
The album title alone tells you she's smart but she also doesn't banner it here in songs which simply seduce you with surfaces then pull you into a strange dreamlike world of her imagining.
And it's a psychedelic world where sometimes you hear a cat crying like a synth.
Or vice-versa. Which seems to be the way of the world for Princess Chelsea.
PRINCESS CHELSEA ALBUM TOUR
CHRISTCHURCH - Friday 1st May - Darkroom
WELLINGTON - Saturday 2nd May – Moon
AUCKLAND - Sunday 3rd May - Kings Arms