Charlotte Day Wilson’s name has become a sign that you’re in for great things
Latched on to the end of a BADBADNOTGOOD or Kaytranada track, her name brings a velvet touch — an added level grace and beauty — to her jazz and R&B inflected collaborators. Across her own work, EPs CDW and Stone Woman, it’s a name that reaches far into the production credits. Simply, Wilson is adept at crafting her own worlds, setting a smoky stage for her voice to glide across.
But her first full length debut Alpha doesn’t so much see Wilson discover new stages, rather treading the same boards with a sharpened skill. It never truly transcends what has come before, though it often feels close.
There’s no denying the talent on display across the album. Wilson’s voice is a singular one; all at once offering heartache, confusion, hope and growth. “Changes”, a smoky jazz reflection on coming to terms with yourself backed by a trap beat, blossoms towards a stunningly hopeful conclusion. Wilson’s harmonies take on an almost choral quality where they had once been a whisper.
Album highlight “Mountains”, meanwhile, plays into this even more; a chopped-up gospel track full of yearning. “Can you hear me calling? / Won’t you come find me”, Wilson cries. Though accompanied by a minimalist rumbling bass and hand clap percussion, she lends the words power in her own intimate way. A voice that sounds good and feels good too.
Where Alpha falls short is in its collaborations. Both Syd and BADBADNOTGOOD, in trying to find a balance with Wilson’s slower tempo, are almost rendered anonymous were it not for the bright spark towards the end of the latter’s appearance on “I Can Only Whisper”. A beautifully lush track, the Toronto jazz trio’s energy is mostly left on the back burner. However, this, alongside the bright “Keep Moving”, does show that Wilson is able to turn things up while still retaining the soulful intimacy that marks her out.
A finely honed performance is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to see what else an artist has in the bag. If not lyrically then musically. There’s not much on Alpha that does surprise or show us a new side of Charlotte Day Wilson, but the side she shows us is now so masterfully presented and emotionally rich its not hard to be taken by it.