There’s a wonderful diversity from song to song, which made Kennedy’s rollout of the tracks — one a month beginning in September — a great way to get to know and understand her sound and vision. Taken together, Cadmium — which will be available on digital/streaming platforms beginning Dec. 27 — is a knock-out.
Kennedy’s opening Cadmium salvo in September was the exquisite, spellbinding “Redwoods.” The goosebump-inducing piano ballad is a perfect introduction to her expressive, stop-you-in-your-tracks vocals and viscerally emotive and mystical writing talents. It’s structurally memorable — within the first few lines, there’s a melodic tick that burrowed into my brain and still gives me a shiver every time I listen — but there’s also something wildly alluring about the aura Kennedy constructs. That kind of dynamic world-building within each song on Cadmium is magnetic. Kennedy’s alchemy is in her ability to create unique atmospheres from track to track in an almost cinematic way, alternating moods, tones and instrumentation with nuance and grace.
"Redwoods" features just piano and vocals, while October's "Cripple Punk" bounces on a dark cabaret vibe (think Tom Waits and The Dresden Dolls jamming at a Parisian speakeasy), with unique soundscaping recorded with renowned local guitarist Ric Hordinski and veteran drummer Joshua Seurkamp. With its flowing, sirenic structure, "Strawberry Hill" strips everything back down to just acoustic guitar and vocals, which are layered to create heavenly textures. “Mayfly,” the final of the four monthly song drops, is also acoustic-based, dreamy and sparse, with an Indian Folk music influence and a guest appearance from Preeti Shastri, a local poet, writer and activist who provides intriguing countermelodies.
Kennedy’s artistry goes beyond the enchanting song arrangements. There are thoughtful, compelling stories and ideals behind each of the songs and the release’s overall concept was carefully and deliberately plotted out, down to the evocative artwork Kennedy created and paired with both the EP release and the advance singles. Cadmium isn’t just a four-song EP — it’s an art project.
Even the title has a detailed story behind it, one that Kennedy traces back to the works of Vincent Van Gogh, who used paint with cadmium. The elemen can be toxic, produces unusually vibrant colors and also fades quickly, a triumvirate of characteristics Kennedy could relate back to her own life and art.
“It speaks to the essence of this small project — Cadmium, a meteor shower that just misses earth,” she wrote recently in an email. “A gorgeous flash of pain and light. The intensely juicy unknown! It’s putting half and half in coffee, sharing a milkshake with your lover, smoking a clove cigarette when your grandmother dies. A glass of wine. Joyful risks. Loving too hard, breaking. Letting life break and mend and re-break you. It’s all this fucking epic, campy, dramatic, tragic romance.
“That is how I think of life. Nothing makes sense, then something makes sense, then everything makes sense, then BAM! That same nothing makes sense. Essence of life, essence of this project.”
Find Cadmium on your favorite digital platform here. You can hear it on Spotify below.
For more on Elsa Kennedy, visit elsakennedy.net.