As I write this review, a storm is brewing outside my window. My neck of the woods is currently being menaced by Tropical Storm Fay (because, you know, we don’t have enough going on already), and while the storm isn’t making direct landfall on Long Island we’re still getting strong winds and torrential downpours. In some ways, storms can be comforting; there’s something reassuring about being safe and warm inside while the elements rage outside. But not all storms can be weathered with a cozy blanket and a mug of tea; sometimes, they can break through your defenses and destroy everything they touch.
“Violet Storm”, the latest from the Nigerian-born, Canada-based Uchechi, was written in the middle of both a literal and a figurative tempest. A dark thunderstorm was stirring outside as Uchechi wrote this enigmatic, beguiling song, and you can hear thunder rumbling in the background of the recording. But there was more turbulence than just the weather; Uchechi and her mother had just gotten through a major fight, and “Violet Storm” served as an outlet for her emotions.
And yet, despite all this, “Violet Storm” is not a chaotic maelstrom of a song; quite the opposite, in fact. For a song borne out of such strong emotions, what strikes me most about “Violet Storm” is its sense of restraint. The music is minimalist and subtle: peaceful-sounding piano chords are accompanied first by an ostinato deep in the mix, and then by the plaintive lowing of some sort of woodwind. It’s almost soothing, but Uchechi makes sure to keep the listener on their toes by throwing in an odd chord or an unexpected note. Despite its beauty, “Violet Storm” is not at peace; it’s coiled like a python, perfectly still yet ready to strike.
As pretty as the music is, Uchechi’s voice is what makes this song special. Although she lists alt-pop mavens such as Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish as influences, Uchechi isn’t ripping off their inflections and delivery the way other artists do. Instead, she’s using her own voice in a thrillingly different manner. Her delivery is hushed, creaky, and even a little playful; you get the feeling that she knows something you don’t. In a way, it reminds me of CocoRosie, but it doesn’t feel remotely affected. Instead, it’s paradoxically mysterious and intimate; it’s enigmatic and unknowable, and yet you feel like she’s murmuring a secret into your ear.
The lyrics strike that same balance. They’re clearly personal and honest, but references to “the bodega on Kensington” and failed math tests are thrown in as though the listener was already familiar with her life. You feel like you’re eavesdropping, as though you’re reading Uchechi’s diary; it’s disorienting, and if the rest of this fascinating song is any indication, that’s exactly what she was aiming for.
“Violet Storm”, despite its name, feels like the aftermath. Even the strongest storms fade eventually, and emotional wounds, whether from a breakup or a fight with your mother, will heal someday. “Violet Storm” evokes the feeling of stepping outside after a hard rain, the air thick with petrichor and the sun shining once again. And yet, you remember the whipping winds and cracks of thunder, and you know that, one day or another, they’ll come back.