Charlotte Day Wilson: Warmth From the North

I was first made aware of Charlotte Day Wilson via the fellow Toronto-based genre-bending  instrumental whirlwind that is BADBADNOTGOOD. Her voice is steeped with a timeless quality, one that’s sensual but still honest and intensely relatable – ‘In Your Eyes’ manages to recount the moment of initial realisation that you’ve fallen in love with someone with such clarity, whilst maintaining the dim-the-lights ambience:

Her presence is reserved and understated, yet at the same time she gives off the undeniable aura that she’s the most confident person in the room. She brings this quality in to all of her collaborative work which should definitely be explored, especially her tracks with Daniel Caesar, River Tiber, and Local Natives. But what makes her solo work more impressive than these efforts is the personal quality that is imbued due to the fact that Wilson acts as performer, multi-instrumentalist, and indeed producer.

It’s a fresh and welcome turn away from what popular Canadian music and RnB is currently exporting in the form of Drake and The Weeknd

Her debut effort ‘CDW’ has notes of a variety of artists from Sade to Arthur Russell, but the sound has still been passed through Wilson’s own filter – it’s a great primer and a cartographic canvas for her future work. Floating and atmospheric opener ‘On Your Own’ slowly swells, teasing Wilson’s vocal talent beneath a celestial organ-pad whilst mallet percussion flits about the background and strings sway in and out of the mix. ‘Work’ then kicks in, grounding us in more conventional song structures showcasing her production skills which are enchanting but subtle enough to let her voice shine through via stunning harmonies which soar above the mix. ‘After All’ and its housier vibe and simple hook melody are perhaps a misstep, but it’s quickly forgiven on the River Tiber-assisted ‘Where Do You Go’, a brass section that holds a comforting yet sombre quality underlining Wilson as she croons “Where did you go today? // Must have been lost”… “I thought that you had my back”.

This year’s ‘Stone Woman’, much like her debut, left me wanting more. It shows a progress and exploration in sound, slowly chipping away at the one negative many people had pinned on ‘CDW’: the lack of dare and innovation. The glitchy keyboard loop of the opening eponymous song sets the EP’s railroad track of self-doubt and assuredness, hopelessness and hopefulness, charting a failing relationship – a ‘stone woman’, an image of both strength and beauty, whilst still maintaining an air of stoicism. Soon ‘Nothing New’ comes into play, subdued synthesisers and a programmed drum loop opening into an instrumental crescendo reminiscent of a sort of hybrid between James Blake saws and Beach House arpeggiators. The standout has to be the closing ‘Funeral’. The love’s over, the EP is over, she sighs “Anytime I think of you // I’m empty hearted” and “Welcome to our funeral // It’s nice that you came”, and it’s so sincere you can’t help but feel for her, as a trumpet solo breaks in to give way to a lighter and optimistic end, building from a simple lone piano to a fully fledged jazz ballad.

However, whilst these tracks address sonic concerns, there’s still something too consistent about the energy and tempo of her work – I’m eagerly waiting for her to kick a track into fifth gear. This being said, she’s still undoubtedly inspiring, refusing the allure of labels to stay true to her art, and ready to impart her already substantial knowledge and attitude to young musicians that listen to her music and  come knocking at her door.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez