In the five years since releasing her second solo album, Parts Of Speech, Twin Cities artist Dessa has flaunted skills that fall outside the realms of the everyday emcee. The member of Doomtree inked a book deal for a series of essays on heartbreak, published her writing in The New York Times Magazine, given a TED talk and performed with an orchestra a la Kanye West's Late Orchestration. Her recently released album, Chime, reflects her varied interests within and outside of music, and shares some of the pronounced classical elements of 2010's A Badly Broken Code. Sometimes that manifests itself overtly on songs like "Velodrome," with its piano and string accompaniments, whereas other songs, like "Fire Drills," though techy, pack the cinematic tension of a classical piece.
Dessa is as incisive and personal as ever in her lyricism here, addressing myriad topics and at times looking at the world through contradictory lenses. On "Fire Drills," she explores her confidence as a world traveller and a woman who has survived and thrived despite the rigors of the music industry and the world. On "Good Grief," she is more vulnerable, addressing the difficulties of life and asking someone to "Melt me down, recast me, burn me clean / Like glass from sandy ground." Throughout the project, Dessa is also very careful when to balancing singing with rapping, using each to resonate with the content of her lyrics. She's able to tether person and artist in a way that is revelatory for the listener. Each song seems to be an extension of what she has been up to in the past few years and offer a window into the mind of one of Midwestern hip-hop's heroes. —Henry Solo