A while back, I asked a friend of mine to introduce me to some new music. I was feeling burnt out on my usual prog fare, and I desperately needed to listen to something different. She suggested I give an artist named Dessa a try, and a little while later, I was listening to her debut album A Badly Broken Code. Though I'm far from a connoisseur of hip-hop and, to be honest, haven't found most of the genre to my liking, I was stunned by her work. The way each syllable seemed to be drooling with subtleties of meaning, the manner in which the surprisingly deep compositions reflected the meaning of the lyrics, and even just the aggressively soothing aesthetic which it was all delivered in seemed to capture my interest in ways I hadn't experienced before. So when I got a chance to pick up her third album,Parts of Speech, I did so in a heartbeat--and I was not disappointed.
What I love most about Dessa is how naturally her words seem to flow from her mouth. She performs most of the album with this intensely intimate, even conversational tone, one that makes you feel privileged for the honour of being allowed to hear it. This only serves to heighten the brilliantly written lyrics, which are densely-packed as ever with aggression and beauty. And when you can hear every inspired turn of the pen mirrored in her soulful delivery, you know you're listening to something magical.
And what's pleasing to me, coming as someone who generally doesn't listen to hip-hop, is that the compositions are incredibly varied. Dessa can throw her rhymes over dense, industrial-influenced electronic chugging ("Warsaw"), delicately-performed chamber strings ("It's Only Me"), vaguely Spanish classical guitar ("Annabelle"), and even some unabashedly Amen break-indebted pieces ("Fighting Fish"). Heck, there's even a huge rock buildup for the finale ("Sound the Bells"). Trying to throw a label on music like this is a futile mission. Wikipedia tells me this variety of music is called "alternative hip-hop"; I just call it fucking magical.
Dessa is a rare treat to hear, and one that should be enjoyed by all. She is a truly gifted artist, and it's clear from her performance on Parts of Speech that she is miles beyond the rest of her competition. And when she is soaring so high above us, who are we to pull her back to Earth?
8.0 / 10
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