Canadian Music Week offered up plenty of gems this year, but one of the most enjoyable finds for me came when I hit up Toronto’s The Rivoli to catch the previously reviewed The Lion The Bear The Fox and was subsequently introduced to Vancouver’s Chersea.
Chersea, who’s real name is Chelsea Laing, is a one-woman band thanks to her loop station and while she’s still routinely described as a newcomer to the music scene, she’s a classically trained artist who’s already taken home third and first at the Boss Loop Station Championship over the past two years. Her debut EP came out in April, right before she started a summer of festival bookings, and it offers up just a taste of her infectious live performance.
The nine months she spent working on Grey Matter also marked a time of growth. The version of “Chemical Polarity” that appears on the EP comes out much fuller than her winning submission from only a year ago. The song, like the rest of the EP, is full of extensive, rich layers—and the intensity of that has pushed Laing’s vocals to the forefront.
The album’s “Prelude,” a quick, Imogen Heap-esque minute sets up Laing’s flair for the electronic, segueing neatly into “I Could Lose It All.” Still, it’s Laing’s unaltered voice that becomes the most compelling element of the song. There’s a playful depth at work that sets Laing apart from her other female contemporaries, whose softer voices tend to blend more. The final minute, as she layers her voice over itself, is one of the fullest on the album.
“Grey Matter” comes closest to capturing the energy that comes with watching Laing perform live—though more stripped down than the first two tracks, there’s a bubbling drum that adds a sense of optimism to Laign’s repeated “I called home/you didn’t answer/The light shines bright/It doesn’t matter.” While that carries through “Chemical Polarity,” there’s another shift for “You Caught My Eye.” Echoing lyrics and added effects soften the poppy beat even as the song builds to a crescendo. Then again, ender “Requiem” packs nothing but punch—the kind of pulsating track that tends to indicate the night is just getting started.
While Grey Matter can’t capture exactly what it’s like to hear and watch Laing live, the EP comes close to showing off exactly what she’s capable of. The poppy beats and vocal sincerity are what will stand out—an excellent sample of both her debut and performance.
Top Tracks: “Grey Matter”; “Requiem”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)