"New Beginnings" by Chessi O'DowdReview
Back in May of last year when I reviewed Chessi O'Dowd's ‘Wine Glass Filter' album, I ventured the opinion that "…every track has the immediacy of a potential single. I wonder which one she'll choose next?" I tentatively suggested either "Counting Down" or "Shoelaces" as possibilities, but to prove me right on the broader opinion & wrong on the specifics, she's gone for "New Beginnings" which comes out on Friday.
As a Chessi fan, I'm sure you have the album track already (I gather that there has been a discreet tweak to make the lyrics fully family friendly on the radio): however revisiting a great track is always a treat in itself and one of the factors which I think is becoming clearer over the years is that the dynamics of current modes of music release have definitely affected how people engage with the conventional album. This, I strongly imagine, is a partial explanation for the preference for EPs since the fewer tracks to process at once grants each one higher levels of prominence & the listener's attention. I note too that although I find myself reviewing far fewer albums than singles nor EPs, those which do get released seem to have a higher degree of consistency of quality: the phenomenon of the "filler track" seems obsolete these days: but then I only actually review albums by seriously good artists who probably wouldn't have any idea what such a track might be..
At any rate, ‘Wine Glass Filter' offers eleven superb songs, a couple of which were previously released on their own account & so stand out a little: cosseted amongst the others (it's actually slap bang in the centre of the running order), "New Beginnings" deserves a chance to be savoured purely on its own merits: which are, as with the other songs, considerable.
One of the starker & rawer of the cuts, I may have suggested other ones as more obvious single material because this one is probably the most unusual compositions on the album: fine by me as I like it a lot but mainstream radio can be a little, shall we say conservative on embracing sounds such as this: one description being that it sounds like an Indian song played by a bluegrass band. That sounds weird (probably you can come up with other, better comparisons but this is mine & I'm sticking to it) and that strangeness is most attractive & certainly grabs your attention. There is also a sort of late 60s vibe going on in there too (I wonder if she's been listening to Orange River Remedy?) and maybe that is a key to the high level of eclecticism? In short though, it works & it works damn well.
The lyric is the usual high quality Chessi creation: the philosophical nature of them may very well account for the eastern melody. There is something of a Zen message in there with imagery (often from the natural world) being artfully & frequently deployed: oscillating between the macro & micro so fast we can't always follow her. Are her suggestions to be universally applied or are they aimed at one specific individual? I suspect both apply at various times in the song: not that it matters much as the wisdom can be applied in both ways. Mind you, Chessi is nothing if not a passionate singer & she really gets apocalyptic at one end of the lyrical spectrum which is most impressive. Even when the metaphysics are on a more intimate scale, the intensity of her vocals matches their clarity.
I'm really glad that Chessi has given me a chance to revisit "New Beginnings" and I'd hope that much the same will apply to a lot of other people too.