Watching Chelsea Wolfe perform material from her newest album, The Grime and the Glow, is an unreal sight. An imposing figure dressed head-to-toe in black and lace, she’s an eerie, otherworldly vision. The effect is surrealistic instead of nightmarish and, like her music, she’s more beautiful than anything else.
The Grime and the Glow has the same dreamy, ethereal feel to it and is a marked departure from her previous effort, Mistake in Parting, which featured a more stripped down sound. With her unique blend of Gothic folk, which features a mix of discordant synths and harmonic vocals, she’s drawn comparisons to the likes of everyone from PJ Harvey to Current 93 to early Stevie Nicks.
One can see why “Halfsleeper” is the stand-out track on the album. It’s an absolutely gorgeous song filled with a sense of mourning and desire, perfect for those pensive moments. Her voice, a siren-like croon, is alluring and captivating, yet her lyrics reveal that, despite appearances, she’s the vulnerable one.
Singing about being exposed, she warbles things like “we’re spread across the open, spread across the asphalt on the open road,” or in “Moses” where she asks him to carry a burden “’cause I can’t take it, can’t hold on to it much longer.” Despite the fragile nature of the lyrics though, her songs are strangely catchy.
“Advice and Vices,” the album’s first track, is curiously bouncy with an addictive, slightly sweet sound to it. It’s the perfect introductory track for the album, which may make it more palatable to those used to the likes of Lykke Li. The dramatic “Moses,” a Gothic chant with a strong, repetitive beat, is also a song to put on repeat and kind of just makes you want to tap your feet along. It’s an interesting blend of sounds that makes the heavy nature of her music a little more accessible to those searching for dark, intricate music without the bite.
With this newest album, Wolfe proves she can successfully mesh Gothic tendencies with calming, sway-inducing harmonies and create sounds that are simultaneously disconcerting and soothing — sounds that can be both introverted and exploratory while also being noisy and experimental. And it’s definitely worth a listen, because it truly is beautiful, complex music that possesses a kind of soul that is rare today.