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Olivia Dean’s Messy is anything but chaotic


Release date: 30 June 2023
Olivia Dean Messyalbumart
30 June 2023, 12:30 Written by Izzy Sigston

Just when you think she’s reached her peak, another set of triumphs rears its head to contribute to Olivia Dean’s impressive biography.

Starting in music at just 17 years old, her career has seen her selling out the Jazz Café plus hometown shows in KOKO and The Roundhouse. Now, at 24, her debut album Messy is no exception to her upward trajectory, using creative artistry to scrapbook elements of love, life and everything in-between into a homegrown directory of soulful buoyancy.

Balancing a fine line between refined and authentic, the record is universally carefree, with atmospherics ranging from dreamy to dark, soulful to spine tingling. Title track “Messy” is a perfect outline of the entire body of work "It's ok if it's messy," Dean croons as glittering synths echo intermittently, whilst mouth trumpet mimes feature alongside a steady build up a of acoustic tropical serenity.

Following her words of wisdom, Olivia Dean’s self-proclaimed mess is a rally of to and fro. Varying from delirious encounters in pub bathrooms in “Ladies Room,” the freedom of falling in love in the euphoric “Dive,” to the risks of taking that plunge, showcased in the playfully wonderful “Danger,” with thoughts that can only be translated into the method of music.

On the deeply personal “Carmen,” Dean pays tribute to her Grandmother who boarded her first ever plane at the age of 18 to the UK, as part of the Windrush Generation. An outpouring of overwhelming gratitude, the track is effervescent with recordings of her grandma’s rich voice, steel pan drums and horns set against undercurrents of delicate bass guitar. The star of the show, however, vocalises itself through Olivia Dean’s poignant storytelling, as she sings "You transplanted a family tree, and a part of it grew into me."

Despite bringing a joyful vibrance to the vast majority of the record, Dean continues to validate that she is the master of versatility. "I’m not as strong as I appear / I’m way more anxious than I seem" she admits on “Everybody’s Crazy,” bearing resemblance to the early soulful ballads of 00’s Adele. Rich with enigmatic chord progressions tied stylishly together with elegant strings, “No Man” is a dark tale of abandonment that see’s Dean reflect on a man’s neglect, with a sound conveying a hybrid of Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

It’s one thing to transform your deepest thoughts, experience and feelings into fiercely beautiful lyrics, the next steps of creating a catalogue of songs with music and vocals is just as precarious. In spite of this, no matter how disorganised Olivia Dean proclaims this album to be, she doesn’t miss a beat – and instead generates a record with just about everything to deem itself ‘perfect’.

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