Nearly three years since her Aria Award-winning debut album To A Stranger, Odette has kept us patiently waiting for something speculator. And spectacular it is.
Herald unsettles and moves the listener in a destructively beautiful way. Odette’s iconic voice bellows amongst a sea of strings and harmonies, she captures the complete and utter complexity of emotions, the yearning for more, and the shattering pain of regret.
At the time of creating the record, the Sydney-based artist was drowning in her own intense passion without an explanation of why. It wasn’t until early 2020, after the completion of Herald, that the artist was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
While the album was originally titled Dwell, Odette decided to change the name and pull towards an inextricable yearning for something more. The definition of ‘Herald’ is a sign that something is about to happen. The record is a longing for this “something”, a desire for wellness and connection. “It’s about addressing my past, my mistakes and yearning for more,” the singer tells us over the phone.
Each of her songs are saturated with emotions that not even the artist understood at the time of writing them. “The thing about BPD is that your perception gets warped, you have to piece together what is happening… I think that’s why I write music,” she explains.
Serving as a homage to the key moments of emotional distress, Herald is a moving title and introduction to the record. Soaked in strings, Odette steps into the theatrical light armoured with a shield of gold, breaking from a rage.
“But I’ll face my fears even if it damn kills me/And I’ll stand as strong as an ox in an alley,” she sings.
Whilst To A Stranger delves into the 23-year-old’s talent for the spoken word, the artist exercises a voice in Herald that she felt insecure to demand before. “With Herald, I pushed everything,” Odette tells us. “I was in the driver’s seat a lot more because I knew exactly what I wanted and I went for it instead of just meekly asking for it.”
This boldness is undoubtedly drenched in each song, striking the most sensitive nerve, harrowing memory, and distorted intensity of overpowering emotions.
“As much as I love this record, I also hate it a bit because I can hear in my voice not just the good parts of yearning and wanting more and being sorry for the mistakes,” she remembers. “But I can also hear the distorted perception, the intensity, the sort of self-absorption that I don’t want to continue in my life.”
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The name Odette (meaning sea), seems perfectly fitting as the artist takes producer Damien Taylor’s advice and fearlessly dives into her world, shining a light on the most unreachable depths. She triumphantly serenades listeners into a Florence and The Machine-like ocean of strings.
It is both the first and last song, Herald and Mandible, that etch their way deepest into the mind. “I am most proud of Herald and Mandible, they are like brother/sister songs and have the same meaning,” the singer recalls.
Both pieces catch the pulls, breaks, fevers, and tears that morph a destructive memory into a powerful force. Whilst Herald clutches to the breaking of rage, Mandible attempts to recognise it and set it free.
The record ends with a song about bones left in a place that the artist never wants to see again. In a kaleidoscopic array of strings, the concluding piece is “more referential of the headspace, it swells into the skeletons left behind and that it is time to go forward and do something with my life instead of sitting here and looking at them.”
It differs from the distorted synth sounds of the preceding songs, “Mandible’ is actually pretty sexy, in a subtle way,” she adds. The track melts with Wonka colours, bursting with hope and lust. Like Herald, it is overpowering with theatrical emotions.
“Pin me to your table/And trace my bluest veins,” she sings on the track.
honestly 🌾 https://t.co/XU416YqA6I
— Odette (@OdettesOdyssey) January 18, 2021
Whilst the bookends of the record are etched with passion, the centre was an intense swing in and out of a recession. Like a drug, Odette slips in an out of nostalgic relapses, rolling through mistakes and memories like strips of old film:
“I cannot seem to let this go/And when I think I’m moving on/I see someone who looks like you and/ I just have to stop.”
Odette intricately adds a natural texture throughout the album “the birds, nature noises, they serve as a motif of the record, a grounding sound and a comfort sound.” The whistling motif is most present in Amends, as Odette falls through the long grass with a distorted synth of magpies.
The collision of experimental sounds, the sonic mixture of bugs, insects, and birds all add to the chaos of her powerful emotions. They act as a tonic to the intensity and texture to the chaos: “almost like a reminder that there’s a world out there.”
Songs like Trial By Fire simply snowballed from the warped perception of reality Odette was facing. Stuck on a rollercoaster of emotional limbo, Odette didn’t receive any answers or understanding of her condition until after the completion of the album.
“Like I’m living in joy and bliss, And if I’m honest, I can’t go on like this,” she sings.
With the record impatiently locked behind Covid doors for one year, Herald stands as a flagstaff to the place Odette never intends on returning: “Herald is reference to a place I was not happy in, so I will never go back there”.
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Whilst the singer described her creative process as being wildly successful, working to “set the scene, then explore the universe” (as producer Damien Taylor puts it), her diagnosis ultimately provided answers that would change her song-making approach.
“I think my whole creative process is going to change, I can feel it changing… as much as I love Herald and I love the records, I never want to experience this again. I want to put this out there and move on with my life,” she concludes.
It is undeniable that Odette has a way with words. To A Stranger put the artist on the map not only as a talented singer, but a performer who can create art with a rare level of honesty. Herald pushes this trust to another level with extraordinarily thoughtful inklings, lyrics yearning for connection and the regret of broken relationships.
can’t sleep- desire to be empathetic and emotionally regulated so I can live a meaningful and communal life getting louder- lost another friend but this time I don’t think it was all my fault- bored of talking but not sure I’m done cooking sorry
— Odette (@OdettesOdyssey) January 10, 2021
There is a level of dark beauty dwelling in the uncomfortableness, the stretching, the brokenness of Odette’s leather-bound orchestral masterpiece as her “nerves twitch like live wire” and heat cracks open from an unbearable fever.
Odette’s rawness, brutal honesty, and boldness has created a destructive sensation, more intricate than her preceding work if that was even possible.
Herald is out February 5th. Grab your copy here.