It was a packed house at Union Pool in Brooklyn this past Wednesday as WILSEN took the stage celebrating the release of their full-length debut Sirens.
WILSEN started a few years back with Canada/UK-turned-New York singer -songwriter Tamsin Wilson, who is now joined by Dan Drohan, Drew Arndt and Johnny Simon Jr. Their sound is one of subtleties: album opener “House On A Hill” and the single “Dusk” never jump at you, but they do hold you down. You barely notice all the parts functioning through the quiet thickness: the guitar plucking, the steady percussive idiosyncrasies, the ukelele, the thump of bass, all corralling around Wilson’s whispy and commanding voice. only the whole thing moving. The songs never lose their grip on you and when the buildup seems to finally come to a head, as with the excellent closer “Anahita”, it’s like remembering to breathe: you don’t think about doing it until you stop.
Yes, this is good songwriting and yes, this is a fantastic voice. WILSEN has and will be named among many greats that you and I both know. But Sirens vibrates in a way that I associate only with Sufjan Stevens’ 2004 gold-star Seven Swans: enigmatic and restrained. WILSEN manages to be so patient, every musical move so careful that it almost feels like you aught to not move while listening. There’s a darkness equally with that fragility and the instrumentation is at the beck and call of the negative spaces in all the songs. It is space that need not be filled, but indeed is intoxicating for repeated listens.
To be sure, these songs have hooks and Wilson’s voice and words are catchy set against a quietly epic backdrop (though it does have elements of that kind of dark folk storytelling we associate with Nick Drake and Elliott Smith). The silence is golden, but her voice is the integral narrator of the story.
Listen to Sirens in full below and watch a super clip of WILSEN promoting the album while you’re at it.