There must be something in the water in Berlin. For decades now it’s boasted a reputation for being a paradise of bohemian culture with artists of all mediums flocking from around the globe. They set up camp hoping to absorb some of that magic they’ve heard about that seems to imbue recordings by all who dwell there. Lou Reed, Australian singer-songwriter Claire Bowditch and most notably David Bowie who refers to his entire late-‘70s period as The Berlin Era have spent time there. The lure of this illuminated history was powerful enough to draw songstress Nessi from her native Hamburg at the age of 19 and this month, she releases her debut EP Twentythreeyears through Serve & Volley Records.
To try and distil these 5 tracks into one overall pitch; this is what Taylor Swift would sound like if instead of hiring a team of Nashville’s slickest hit-makers, she caught a redeye to dreary old Sussex and hunkered down in a dank, dark studio full of ‘80s gear with Robert Smith of The Cure producing. However, from the first track Alone, Nessi is pretty set on making an individual statement on her own of what’s going on behind her Frenchy-chic Suicide Girl appearance. It’s about, funnily enough, feeling alone when she first moved to Berlin and opens with just voice and piano until layer-by-layer, you’re engulfed in a sea of bright, washy synth, verbed out guitars and massive Phil Collins-esque drums.
It’s not until you realize by second track Hush Hush that being “alone” might not be the problem. Here’s where the T-Swizzle comparison really gains a bit of traction because Hush Hush bears all the same markings: It’s a mid-tempo acoustic-based pop ballad about a romance gone awry. This being said Nessi can’t really be accused of Shiah LaBeouf-ing Taylor’s style as her songs are legitimately vulnerable and honest. Her overall darker aesthetic will surely resonate with fans of the kind of girl-pop made far, far away from your average honky tonk.
Three tracks in we hear Just a Line with a chorus that contains the words “close to me” and it’s at this point you’re that Robert Smith just chimed in with some tips on how to REALLY make the mascara run.
The closing two tracks are probably the strongest, oddly enough by virtue of sounding the least “pop”. Remember Me swells from moody, XX-style minimalism to a percussive party reminiscent of St. Lucia’s When The Night whereas closer You has a sweetheart Flaming Lips kind of vibe with everything from chincy drum machines to huge, dissonant guitar drones.
Overall Nessi has put out a really strong debut however she’ll hopefully be more interesting to listen to over her next few releases. It will be rewarding to watch as she finds herself rather than hedging her bets with the cover-all-2014-pop-bases approach that’s pretty apparent throughout Twentythreeyears. Unlike Swift, she’s definitely no bubblegum country crossover darling and that’s a good thing. She don’t care about T, she’s here at 23.