Throughout the course of this site’s ten-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink cover the acclaimed Northern California-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Chelsea Wolfe. During that same period, Wolfe has maintained a long-held reputation for channeling somber and eerily haunting beauty in a variety of styles and forms including gothic rock, doom metal and folk.
Wolfe’s unique gifts as a songwriter is made much more apparent whenever she strips her material down to a few key elements. Wolfe’s latest single, “Anhedonia,” features guest vocals and guitar from labelmate Emma Ruth Rundle, and the slow-burning and hauntingly gorgeous song continues in the vein of the JOVM mainstay’s last full-length album — centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering acoustic guitar, reverb-drenched guitar and ethereal effects. Interestingly, the song manages to evoke our current moment of socioeconomic and political instability, of constant death, fear and heartache. Pleasure and happiness right now just seem inappropriate and impossible.
“I wrote ‘Anhedonia’ after I experienced it during summer of 2019, then tucked the song away and moved forward with my acoustic album and subsequent North American tour,” Wolfe says of the new single. “When COVID-19 hit and stay-at-home orders began in 2020, my European tour was canceled and I had to fly home. Restless, I started listening through my archives of unfinished songs and little unused ideas. When I heard Anhedonia again, it hit me how strangely relevant the lyrics felt to current times. I’d been wanting to work on a song with Emma [Rundle] for a long time, so I recorded it and sent it her way. She graciously added her gorgeous vocals and lead guitar, and then Ben [Chisholm] mixed it, adding his signature sound landscape as a fortress around the song. As I listened back to the final version, I was finally able to set free those emotions which I couldn’t feel back in 2019. I had worries around releasing the song, not wanting to romanticize the condition of anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), but I also understood that it could possibly be cathartic for others who are struggling, as it was for me, to sing and dance my way out of a depression.”
Emma Ruth Rundle adds “I was moved to tears when she sent me Anhedonia, which made getting through the tracking very emotional and slow on my end. I love the way the guitars I tracked morphed in Ben’s mix. The whole song swirls in a poignant eddy of sorrowful sound and still takes a hard swing at my heart hearing it now.”