Including the title “princess” in the name of a dreamy, smart-mouthed psych-folk songstress runs the risk of being too perfectly fairytale-ish and quirky—unless the name was bestowed by the artist’s former “circus punk” bandmates during a rowdy and sloppy tour. Princess Chelsea, so named by the members of the New Zealand punk-weirdo troupe Teenwolf she used to play with, has taken her tongue-and-cheek title from scream-y to quirky with the release of her debut solo album Lil’ Golden Book in May. Drawing on her experience performing with Teenwolf and fellow New Zealanders the Brunettes, not to mention a background in classical music and a brain full of sentient memories, Princess Chelsea has composed a collection of chimerical and often ambient indie pop songs recorded in her bedroom.

While Princess Chelsea’s work tends to have a light, delicate quality to its sound, her songs are not devoid of gloomier moods. Her dark moments add a macabre quality to songs that spin memories into half-fairytales with simple, straightforward lyrics and ethereal melodies. She uses a laundry list of instruments to compose layered soundscapes—her four-piece live band, whom she refers to as Princess Chelsea And Her Best Friends, plays drums, guitar, bass, four keyboards, two glockenspiels, a xylophone, violin and a harmonica.

Lil’ Golden Book is wholly a product of Princess Chelsea’s native island country; it focuses on her recollections of growing up in New Zealand and features other local musicians. The result is an expressive blend of a fascination with the mundane and a taste for the fantastical that has taken the ex-circus punk freak to new folk territory.

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