Dessa has been recording with Twin Cities-based hip-hop collective Doomtree since 2005, though she didn’t release her own full-length until 2010’s gorgeous A Badly Broken Code, which landed at No. 20 on our Best Music list that year. Her background as a spoken-word poet can be heard in her evocative, fluid lyrics and melodic flow—though on “The Chaconne,” she sticks to singing for a parable about artistic obsession that she says is as much about hero worship as it is about romantic love.
“I think it can be really hard to cleave the two, the hero-worship and the romance,” she told us. “You know, you’re sitting down across the bar table to have a cocktail, and she knows everything about you because she’s seen the documentary, and you know her first name because you met her yesterday. It’s such a pitched field to try to make a relationship of parity.”
While Dessa says “The Chaconne” isn’t autobiographical—there are no famous concert violinists in her past—she alludes to past romantic relationships that have had a similar schism between romantic love and artistic passion that’s represented in the song; as she puts it, “To be loved desperately, but only second-best.”
This year, Dessa released Castor, The Twin, which reinterprets songs from A Badly Broken Code—including “The Chaconne”—and her 2005 EP False Hopes with new, live instrumentation. For One Track Mind, she brought together a five-piece band for a lush rendition of “The Chaconne,” recorded in St. Paul at the McNally Smith College Of Music, just down the hall from the studio where she recorded Castor.