The ever-evolving musician Chelsea Paolini has matured gracefully since her flagship band People Skills broke up. As a follow up to the experimental “One More Before The Therapy Kicks In", Paolini returns to form with her latest EP “Medicine Cabinet".
Lyrically, Paolini has sharpened the edges of her introspection. The dynamic between her moody, self-deprecating lyrics and her self-proclaimed “lullaby pop" melodies make even the most melancholic observations something to sing along to while you’re washing the dishes.
The most poignant song “How Do I Grow Up, Mom?” reveals the core truth that no matter how adult we get, we reminisce of a time when our parents gave us reassurance to live by. “I’m too busy getting my life together to comb my hair", Paolini sings brokenhearted, juxtaposing the philosophical pressures of adulthood with what is, arguably, a child’s most demanding task growing up. The rose-colored vision of Paolini’s reflections leave uncertain and question in the simplest, everyday tasks.
But, true to character, no matter how dark the lyrics get, the sunshine always seems ready to peak out at any point during the five songs on the album.
Kicking off the track is the classic Paolini track “FM Radio". With lofty leads and bubbly vocals, the sweet-as-candy love song feels like summer in an otherwise winteresque album. She professes her love to Myles Burr, her boyfriend and bandmate in the poetry rock side project Futon Affair, with directness.
Paolini sings with confidence and comfort, “He’s so close to the cutoff that he’s almost Gen Y/He’s my intellectual, bisexual younger guy". a track so inherently People Skills, it doesn’t come as a surprise when reading the liner notes to see that Chelsea’s brother Andrew plays drum on the track.
Musically is where the true maturity blooms in Paolini’s music. Known locally as a guitar shredding virtuoso, the singer-songwriter takes to task the intimacy of curbing the gut-busting guitar solos and stripping down her sound to the bare necessities, just vocals and acoustic.
In tradition of Paolini’s solo releases comes the fascinating collaborations with local artists. The EP is produced by Time Creature, a project featuring local jazz musicians Chris Jordan and Michael Iffland. Time Creature’s touch on “Medicine Cabinet" brings a new element completely dissimilar to the hip hop influenced tracks of “One More"’s producer Teeba.
Paolini’s work has taken on new meaning without the other members of People Skills contributing to her musical identity. The earnest nature of her ambitions comes a little more purely as she’s writing for herself. In the end, acceptance of her world as it is resonating with the curious listener exploring the endless internal debate in her music. The apex of contradictions, in herself as well as the idea of the life of an artist, is summed up in the opening lines of the final song on the EP: “Well, it’s OK to be alone/Cuz I’d be lonely either way".
Chelsea Paolini, singer, guitarist, and frontwoman of the legendary New Hampshire band People Skills, is finally going solo. Since she debuted her solo album “One More Before the Therapy Kicks In" in 2016, Paolini has been touring all over the country from Dover, NH, to Denver, CO to support of her new sound.
People Skills, comprised of Paolini, her brother Andrew on drums, and bassist Eric Reingold of Blacklight Ruckus, is known around the Granite State as the flagship psychedelic power pop trio. The band has sold out clubs all over New Hampshire and have performed with Max Creek, members of Kung Fu, and Tristan Omand. Fans identify the band through Paolini’s epic guitar solos, dreamy vocals, and confessional songwriting that detail relationships, mental illness, and self-deprecating humor.
Though Paolini still translates her vocal style and guitar wizardry to her solo project, the Portsmouth-based singer/songwriter has reinvented herself as the Northeast’s next pop rock superstar. Yet underneath all of the sunshine and bright tones lies a much darker album than what People Skills fans will expect.
“One More Before the Therapy Kicks In" showcases Paolini in her most open- and broken-hearted. Her songs speak like entries in a diary, dealing with her lofty ambitions, the current state of artistry in modern society, and confronting depression without holding back.
“It’s funny because I write about the same subjects in People Skills songs, but more cryptically, so I think I’m either becoming less clever, or else maybe I want to get a clearer message across,” she said.
The album itself spans the spectrum of genre diversity, while still clutching firmly to the catchy nature of pop music. Listeners will hear a distinct ska influence on “How to Be Happy", while funk fans will adore the ripping solo at the intro of “Cuz You’re An Artist, Baby". “For You to Leave" has the bounce of 90s alt-pop, while “Doll" sounds like if The Postal Service experimented with Spanish-style guitar melodies.
As a solo artist, Paolini confidently offers the listener the freedom to come closer to her heart while still serving music with a smile on her face.
“Honestly, the hope and optimism I kind of threw in there for my parents and anyone who might be worried,” Paolini said. “It’s hard to write from the heart when your biggest fans are the people closest to you … honestly, I swear I’m not a bummer to hang out with, although these lyrical confessions make it seem so.”
Paolini stands out from the pack through her ability to strip out the irony of today’s alternative rock music, and speak from the soul without losing her ability to shred.
Album artwork by Sam Paolini