Zsela: Ache of Victory

We’ve been waiting a while for this moment — to finally submerge into Zsela’s deep, oceanic voice that we only caught a glimpse of last year with her debut single, “Noise.” Her first EP, Ache of Victory, arrived at the end of April with five songs.

Zsela is new to the scene but no stranger to creativity. Throughout her life, she has been surrounded by artists like her musician father Marc Anthony Thompson, and actor half-sister Tessa Thompson (who is rumored to be dating Blood Orange‘s Dev Hynes). Following her first single, Zsela made a mark on the New York fashion industry and art world with captivating performances at the Whitney Art Party dinner in January of 2020 and the Collina Strada’s SS20 runway show with “Earlier Days.” Zsela has become a breakout sweetheart of the industry, sharing her raw emotion and melodic voice as she becomes a muse.

Keeping the same unique sound and emotion from her first single, Zsela’s voice matures and grows in Ache of Victory. There is an organic, yearning feel to it that is brought to life by the artful production of both Zsela and Daniel Aged, who has collaborated with artists Frank Ocean and FKA twigs in the past. The final product is a collection of songs that are transcendent, minimally composed, and bring intense emotion to life; it is at once a spiritual and private moment.

The EP starts off slowly with the confessional “Drinking Again” and bleeds into “Earlier Days,” the first single off of Ache of Victory. These two songs embrace Zsela’s echoing voice as she sings about slipping back into drinking, longing, and fading memories.

Midway into the EP, “For Now” arrives and welcomes Zsela’s hypnotizing falsetto. Accompanied by a slow, pulsating beat, “For Now” carries over the resonating vocals and calmness of the first two songs until Zsela cries out as she crescendos, “I don’t wanna fight it / When I don’t know how.” The drums become more intense and the pace picks up, climaxing as Zsela echoes in different octaves, “You ought to know.” Cathartic yet collected, the powerful track offers a flooding release that is then subdued by the final songs.

“Liza” then detours from the impassioned track and feels more concerned with the production, playing with synths and layering while forgoing the emotional storytelling otherwise persistent across the record. “Undone” concludes the EP with Zsela’s quintessential style and is stripped of synths so that only her bare vocals reverberates, like an acoustic choir singing a hymnal.

Ache of Victory is an EP to listen to in your bedroom, on a walk, or in solitude — eerily fitting right now as we spend these months in isolation. Her soothing yet haunting sounds, with the undertones of hope and overcoming, lends Ache of Victory as an elixir for our conflicted and confused souls this spring.

Rating: 7.5/10

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