Band of the Day

2012.07.22

Sydney Wayser

Sultry folk-pop from a French-American, New York-based chanteuse
I need a break from time; the days are lagging on. I'm playing with biting chaos; the bells inside my head go off.
lyrics from Bells

New York-based singer-songwriter Sydney Wayser plays several instruments in her music, including guitar, piano and children’s toys. The French-American artist grew up in Los Angeles and spent her summers in Paris. Her unique upbringing made way for a wide range of French and American cultural influences such as Edith Piaf, Charlotte Gainsbourg and John Lennon, among others. Sydney’s third and latest album, Bell Choir Coast, was a fictional land she created as a way to escape a harsh New York winter and bring herself somewhere else, since she couldn’t leave New York. Bell Choir Coast takes Sydney’s indie-pop sound and infuses a bit of happiness to it. She has performed at festivals like SXSW, Wanderlust Festival and Canadian Music Fest, in addition to tours with the likes of Kaki King.

Growing up in Los Angeles, singer-songwriter Sydney Wayser never had to worry about harsh winters. One of the pleasures of life in the Golden State is living in a perpetual, almost season-less state of sunshine; most Januaries are more moderate than menacing. But when Wayser moved to New York and began work on her third album, Bell Choir Coast, it was "in the midst of a miserable New York winter," one that saw snow records fall and temperatures regularly drop below freezing. Instead of struggling with the change, she embraced the creative struggle and created a fictional land far away from the dreary realities of her adopted home. Wayser called the land “Bell Choir Coast,” and the album is an aural atlas of the past few years of her life, detailing heartbreak and euphoria and growing up in a set of jazzy, impassioned folk-pop songs. Wayser's voice is both familiar (you can hear strains of greats like Leslie Feist and Chan Marshall in her quivering vibrato) and distant, like a lover you just can't pin down. Bell Choir Coast is an eclectic record, full of spare voice and guitar laments like “Wake Up” and “Time Frame” and more uptempo, jangling material like the super-catchy “Potions” and bubbling “Dream Up.” Instead of relying on tired instrumentation, Wayser and her band incorporate plenty of odd sounds, from plucked banjos and ukuleles to a harmonium and plenty of whistling. “Atlas” even glides on a jittery programmed beat and a deep fuzz bassline, rocking out harder than her first two records combined. And her lyrics range from deep meditations on life to blunt and clear come-ons. “Stay the night, we’ll stay close the whole time,” she sings on the piano-led “Come Aboard,” pausing for a second before revealing the kicker, “and get out of the cold.” Listening to Bell Choir Coast—an album that radiates positive Cali vibes—it’s shocking to remember that it was created under such frigid conditions. There’s no doubt that Bell Choir Coast belongs in the tradition of great sunny, warm California pop records, even if it took a journey to a colder place to make it a reality.