Dessa – Parts of Speech
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Record Label: Doomtree
Margret Wander never wanted to just be remembered as a hip-hop artist. No, the artist more commonly known as Dessa offers much more than that. To pigeonhole her talent into one genre would be a disservice, so while she got into the game with her otherworldly flow and smart wordplay, she’s emerging from it as a well-rounded, multi-faceted musician. Throughout her career, Dessa has been dropping a few gems that span pop, R&B, and experimental music on previous albums - it wasn’t until Castor, the Twin (an album featuring reinterpretations of her debut, A Badly Broken Code) that listeners began to realize how refined her musical palate is. Parts Of Speech is Dessa’s fully realized musical vision coming to life.
The album’s twelve tracks are littered with some of most complex and refined compositions, making it one of the best-sounding releases in the Doomtree catalog. Opening track “The Man I Knew” is layered with rich piano chords and delicate guitar movements that compliment Dessa’s beautiful harmonies. It’s a poignant track that sets the tone of Parts of Speech and prepares the listener for all the twists and turns. The vulnerable “Call Off Your Ghost” is pure elegance while “Warsaw” gets weird (Paper Tiger outdoes himself here) and unleashes Dessa’s fierceness, as she’s an absolute force behind the mic. “Fighting Fish” is a classic Doomtree cut with Dessa weaving in and out with clever wordplay.
Dessa is at her best when Parts Of Speech slows down. The cavorting “Beekeeper” is a piece of chamber-pop deliciousness, while closer “Sound The Bells” somberly closes out the album while highlighting Dessa’s exhilarating, soaring vocals. But perfection is found on “Dear Marie,” an eerie slow jam that is buoyed by Dessa’s fantastic harmonies, echoing bass, and ethereal piano keys. Dessa paints a vibrant picture of a fractured relationship and the song is an emotional high that resonates through and through.
Parts Of Speech tears down whatever genre walls Dessa may have been in previously and lets her tackle many different and difficult topics from her unique point of view – jumping from narrator to observer to focal point throughout. Her lyrics possess a philosophical bent that very few compare to. Some of it is jarring and uncomfortable, others empowering (the striking “Skeleton Key”). She’s not afraid to reach out towards troubled ex-lovers (“Annabelle”) or face down abusers (“The Lamb”). One thing is for certain and that’s Dessa unwavering confidence and courage throughout (“I don’t want a walk/I’d rather swing and miss”). Her hard edges cut deeper than ever before, yet she can still be gentle when needed.
Dessa’s unmistakable lyrical prowess is what ties together the diversity on Parts Of Speech - her dry wit, intelligent wordplay, and relatable worldview is the common thread throughout. Watching the Minneapolis MC grow into this dynamic artist is nothing short of thrilling, with Parts Of Speech just being the tip of the iceberg. With her second proper full-length, Dessa has been cemented as one of the most important voices in not only hip-hop but all music today.
"Opening track “The Man I Knew” is layered with rich piano chords and delicate guitar movements that [missing word?] Dessa’s beautiful harmonies." Also, in the second-to-last paragraph, it should say "lets," not "let's."
My favorite of her releases. I still wish she'd get on some other peoples production rather than always going to Lazerbeak/Paper Tiger. Those dudes rule but I wonder how she would sound on some more electronic sounding stuff.