Princess Chelsea - The Great Cybernetic Depression
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When sitting down to write songs for her second album, Princess Chelsea (aka Chelsea Nikkel) was feeling kind of depressed and cynical, unsure about the modern world and her place in it. She turned these personal feelings into a concept album about a future world where the entire planet is overrun by depression brought on by technology. The Great Cybernetic Depression is a bleak and beautiful space opera, dominated by all means of vintage synths and Chelsea's clear and clean vocals. With yearning ballads marked by chiming keyboard arpeggios, stately marches punctuated by the occasional screaming guitar solo, and songs about alienation and isolation, it's pretty textbook concept album-y, but she and her musical partner Jonathan Bree, formerly of the Brunettes, work hard to make it unique. Part of the album's success is due to the strength of the melodies -- most of the songs have very hummable choruses. Part of it is the deadpan presentation of the vocals. Both Chelsea and Bree underplay the emotional content, which helps put across the feelings of helplessness and inaction that go along with depression. A great chunk of it goes to the sound of the album, which has the classic feel of a lost synth pop gem, but also a slick modern sheen that's futuristic without being cold. The album fits together very well, with an overarching mood that runs throughout, while making sure the songs are good enough to stand on their own. "Too Many People" would be the hit single, if that kind of thing still happened, thanks to its very earwormy chorus. It's nearly a match for the insanely catchy "The Cigarette Duet" from her first album. The Great Cybernetic Depression is more than a follow-up to her first album, it's a leap forward that pairs some seriously sharp songwriting with a fascinating concept and some seriously good music.