Two thousand twenty-three is proving to be a very strong musical year thus far. I have a whole list of albums I want to review, and that list begins with Ché Aimee Dorval and her new album The Crowned. It released on January 20th.
Ché Aimee Dorval is rather well-known in “prog” circles, despite her solo music not fitting that mold. You may recognize her from Casualties of Cool and other collaborations with Devin Townsend. I personally love her work with Devin, especially the song “Heaven’s End”. Her vocals are unmistakable.
For her solo work, though, Ché leans into a style of music defined by pop hooks, soulful delivery and instrumentation, and engaging aesthetics. The Crowned is indeed a catchy album with some seriously good hooks, but the emotion and presence of the vocals are what really make this sizzle. You may hear some rock and folk cues, too, but this is primarily about bluesy, soulful spirit.
Ché’s vocals are really something. She has a slight accent which gives her hooks and upper range a unique little twist, and she’s good at taking a melody in a direction you might not expect. She does this again and again on The Crowned, and she does it effortlessly.
For me, the first half of the album, roughly tracks 1-7, have a certain style, and then the second half, tracks 8-11, are a little different. I know those aren’t even halves, but I don’t care. That’s how my brain organizes it. In the first half, we get the title track and songs like “Loveless” and “Want That Soul”; these songs are forlorn yet confident, love sick but independent, and truly beautiful. I love the title track as it opens the album with such a convincing chorus, and “Want That Soul” has one of the most delightful, rolling choruses I’ve heard in a while. “Sorta Loves Me” is a favorite with its innocent demeanor and luscious atmosphere.
The second half of the album is just as good, but I feel like it ups the ante somewhat. “Try” is such a stunning piece of art with its strings and catchy chorus. It feels slightly darker to me, too, and I know it will end up being one of my favorite songs of the year. The same could be said for the closer “What Is Enough (Desired and Adored)”, a treasure with eccentric flourishes on Ché’s vocals, and I feel like it brings an intensity to the end of the album that makes me want to restart the whole album again.
Also in the second half are “Sleeping, Stoned” and “Lionize”, two songs which will certainly be the unsung heroes of the album. The former is gentle and careful in its gait, and I love how calming it is. “Lionize” has probably the most rock sound of any song here, mainly in its emotional guitar work. I really like the flowing chorus on this one, and the overall ambience.
Ché’ Aimee Dorval has impressed me with Devin and even with her previous solo record, Between the Walls and the Window, back in 2017. The Crowned, though, is something more. It has such deep personality and artistry woven into each and every song, and so each piece feels like an achievement individually. I hope that listeners will take the plunge on this one.
Find Ché Aimee Dorval online: