As we continually rush to name the Next Best Thing (often more to gain attention for the tastemaker than the artist tapped), the world is opening up to new, distinct acts. It’s getting easier, in some ways, to get noticed. If you step out on your own musical ledge, someone is bound to champion you, and it’ll snowball from there. To a point. The drawback to this cycle is that while it might make it (relatively) easier to get noticed, it is much harder to last in this catch-and-release promotion and criticism.
But then there’s cases like Glasser, the one-woman act of Cameron Mesirow, that cut right through that trend. While she, like plenty others, gained attention on the strength of a self-made EP, her first full-length, Ring, is a cohesive and bracing statement, the kind of record that doesn’t realize modest promise but instead begins a fruitful career.
This album builds on new versions of the songs that caught our ear on her Apply EP. In fact, this new take on “Apply” — made here with, you know, a studio, and not just on Mesirow’s computer — has got to be in the running for single of the year. While Mesirow deals in heady, triumphant atmosphere, it’s the way she beds it down in a damp, jungle thump on that makes the song stand out. “If the walls were too thin,” she sings, “you would break right in,” which is a fitting opening line for a song that rumbles and swells to bursting for a steady, tense five minutes.
“Apply” also serves as the perfect tone-setter for this beguiling set of songs, where the airy atmospherics pull fitfully at the terra-firma beats they’ve been tethered to. The best of the songs build on variations of “Apply”‘s distinct churn. The odd, dyspeptic bubbling on “Home” sounds every bit like the collapsing structures Mesirow wails about in the song, while heavy tom work on “Tremel” shifts wandering layers of vocals into a volatile gallop. The whole record contains this deep, resonant pulse, but some songs do ease back on more straightforward beats. The industrial thump and cold synth of “T” recalls too easily moody ’80s pop, for example, and the simple beat on “Mirrorage” seems too thin to hold up the thick layers of sound Mesirow piles on it.
What saves those simpler moments is the feel of the record as a whole. Ring is mirrored on the chiastic (or “ring”) structure found in oral tradition in which there is no set ending or beginning. And though there are standouts, and each song is distinct, there is a feel that this is all one big sound. It all comes together, each piece blends into the next, and it does feel like you could drop into this record anywhere and find your way all right. This structure also reflects some of the themes of isolation and landscape. These songs often find people surrounded — by flimsy walls, by giant cloudbanks, by oceans of water. Sometimes Mesirow meshes with all the space around her, and sometimes it highlights her isolation, but either side of that coin comes out in these expansive, shimmering tracks.
To be sure, Ring is an ambitious and impressive statement, and one that should help Glasser avoid that one-off attention to become a lasting artist. Its highlights are unique and mesmerizing, and the few lesser (and by lesser, I mean not flat-out fantastic) moments leave room for her to grow from here. This is exactly what you should want out of a debut record: that excitement of discovery, and the space to build on it in the future.