EP: Zelma Stone – Dreamland review

by Hannah Ashcroft

Dreamy was the word that instantly came to mind before I’d even looked at the title of bedroom pop musician Zelma Stone’s New EP, Dreamland.

Moniker of San Francisco based songwriter, Chloe Zelma Studebaker, she describes the EP as a process of healing and an outpouring of grief emerging from personal loss over the last decade. Recorded at Tiny Telephone Studios with producer Maryam Qudus (Tune-Yards, SASAMI), the track list seems cleverly curated to reflect this cycle – gliding effortlessly between different moods and stages.

‘Music has helped me immensely with my grief and got me through a lot. Many people in our culture are afraid of death and the unknown. Fear can bubble up inside, so if we don’t talk about it or process it through making art, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Grief is something you shouldn’t walk away from because it will always follow you. You won’t heal unless you face it.’

First single, Fly, opens the collection – a swirl of effects and e-bowed guitar is followed by a laid back bass line and Studebaker’s striking vocals. Although the track is inspired by her grandfather’s love of classic songwriters Elvis and Patsy Cline, her vocals nod to the more contemporary likes of Adrianne Lenker and Angel Olsen – yet, she establishes a sound that is undoubtedly her own.

Title track, Dreamland, imagines the return of a loved one, switching perspective between the artist and her late brother over slide guitar and wistful melodies. There is a definite sense of melancholy throughout the EP, but despite the subject matter, Studebaker’s voice is soft and light.

Perhaps the most relatable at this point in time is Body Talk – a short punchy number about the importance of practicing self care. The song is an appeal from oneself to slow down, written in first person and declaring, ‘I’m your body and I’m telling you no’. Purple Pastel too dips into a contemplative tone – reminiscent in nature with PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. While the conclusion to the EP is We’re All Gonna Die. Not the pessimistic song the title suggests, but rather an invitation to live each day to its fullest, finishing on a high note with bold and resilient chorus and shimmering synths.

Dreamland is the perfect isolation partner: nostalgic and immersive – a lie back and watch the clouds kind of record. There are also some great live versions of these tracks, played with only guitar and pedal steel, on You Tube – that demonstrate how the songs stand up stripped of their production – a testament to the quality and versatility of Studebaker’s writing.

Secret Meeting score: 85

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