Auckland-based musician and producer Chelsea Nikkel is a classically trained pianist whose pop roots stretch back to the likes of indie outfits TEEN WOLF and THE BRUNETTES. Her debut album Lil’ Golden Book was released on the Lil’ Chief Records label last year.
New Zealand does seem to have its own ‘bedroom pop’ scene at the moment (check out similar solo act Pikachunes for more lo-fi goodness) of which PRINCESS CHELSEA appears to be an essential segment. There’s a witty, sardonic humour to Chelsea’s lyrics for the album, which is essentially a collection of stories about growing up as a teenager in New Zealand.
There’s a certain naïve charm to PRINCESS CHELSEA, from the faux Disney illustration on the sleeve art to the curious nursery rhyme style of many of her songs. Her record label describes the album as “the soundtrack to an old Disney movie meets Kraftwerk fronted by Enya in a 60s production of Les Mis… set in space” and that probably sums it up better than anything!
This fairy tale approach to song writing is typified in tracks like Ice Reign with its regimented beat, quirky melody and evocative vocals. Goodnight Little Robot Child continues the theme with a wistful and yearning song that’s carried by a delicate melody creating a dreamlike atmosphere.
Machines Of Loving Grace has nods towards more classic synth tunes while crafting its own dreampop space. Similarly, Frack treads a more familiar electronic path, again with its own particular style.
The Cigarette Duet though is a standout moment from the album. A long organ intro leads to a sudden change in gear as Chelsea enters into a deadpan duet with Jonathan Bree (of the afore-mentioned BRUNETTES) about the perils of smoking. It suggests the Electropop version of Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood!
If you like to explore the lo-fi end of Electropop then PRINCESS CHELSEA is a good place to start.
PRINCESS CHELSEA is playing at Monto Water Rats, London on 17th May 2012.
Lil’ Golden Book is out now on Lil’ Chief Records.
Text by Paul Browne
8th April 2012