by BellaJoli Gedeon
It’s a distinctive, yet uncommon skill to be able to sing powerfully polished on a recording and on stage, but that’s exactly what Isa Ansin, professionally known as chrysalis, does. In fact, pressing play on any of their songs is nothing short of hearing them perform live. Despite studying full-time amongst fellow young musicians at Berklee College of Music, the singer-songwriter also frequently performs at local music venues in Boston. They’ve even achieved widespread acclaim and recognition for their original music and covers on TikTok and their supporting acts for Kat Cunning and VÉRITÉ on tour.
In mid-March, they released their debut EP, margarita sugar, which consists of five tracks riveting with passion. The minuscule moments of their shuffling guitar and the screech of its strings is what makes each song on the project incredibly raw and unfiltered. Notably, the harmonic build up of their background vocals as well as the eccentric plucking and strumming rhythms of their guitar playing immediately proves the release to be a successful merge between folk, indie-pop, and neo-soul.
Even though their lyrics are quite literal, they include vivid imagery and metaphors that are beautifully clever. In “200 miles,” this writing style is exemplified within the lyric “Something ‘bout leaving you always leaves me feeling less than whole.” It’s essentially a song emulating a memory which anyone who’s dealt with the personal difficulties of being away from their partner can relate to. The song doesn’t hold back from being a reflection on unfortunate circumstances, but it’s delivered in a manner that’s impressively self-aware.
With “july,” their sound slightly picks up speed with brighter instrumentals which encourages listeners to move to the beat. But, there’s no doubt that chrysalis’ voice is a subject in itself. The vocal runs in their songs embellish the vulnerability of their lyrics, yet holds incredible control. “You’ve been the missing puzzle piece I’ve been looking for” is a lyric in the song that is like an eye-opening insight into a love letter. Ansin consistently remains on theme with reference to expressing themselves about their romantic relationship.
The pains of processing unexpected change is also present in their music, especially in “unknown.” The lyrics “Penny for my thoughts? / You’re gonna need a couple dimes” and “I don’t wanna be alone / I don’t fit in the unknown” are heart-wrenching, yet honest. The complexities of accepting loss is a concept chrysalis explores in the verses and chorus. They demonstrate the ability to face their inner struggles regardless of how hard it can be. Towards the tail end of the song, chrysalis introduces listeners to softer tones which sonically transitions into a lullaby due to its whisper-like components.
Their debut single and title track of the EP, “margarita sugar,” has gained more than 15,000 streams on Spotify since its initial release in February. The song repeatedly switches between the narrative of rationalizing a falling out and considering a rekindlement. “Was I crazy to think that you and I were in sync?” and “But I know I’ll see you again” are lyrics that not only emphasize their overwhelming emotions, but demonstrate the depth of their songwriting. They’ve also experimented with a more complex song structure at this point in the EP.
An outpour of feelings which function as a climactic confession is elegantly conveyed in “dreaming in the day.” The song is dynamically diverse with steady beats that are overlapped with the rise and fall of chrysalis’ voice. It begins on a hopeful note with uplifting whistles, but shifts into a somber realization with the lyrics “I made the mistake of skipping the break / I rushed to fill hole and the mess that you made.” The song is like a calm closing scene to what completes margarita sugar as a whole.
In an interview with Hug the Tree Foundation, chrysalis describes their music to be “very intimate.” They also aim for listeners to consider their songs to be “welcoming” and “something to relate to.” Despite just recently putting out music on multiple streaming platforms, they regularly work alongside an all-queer band in order to maintain a creative, yet collaborative space. Ansin also consistently makes patchwork for mutual aid aside from performing shows. In the meantime, there are high hopes for what’s to come next on chrysalis’ future projects.