Photo: Sam Li
One can be unnerved by how quickly the enchanting becomes haunting. Dolly Ave has studied this emotional transition and sensory betrayal perfectly in her visual for the song "Try," a creepy thriller (thankfully not inspired by personal events). Written and directed by Sam Li and shot by Joe Han, cinephiles will smartly see the references, but what is most compelling is how subtly it builds tension, paralleling the song itself.
"Try" and its lyrics have existential undertones; a story of the struggle within, the desynchronization of the psyche and self. The choice of watching oneself - feeling exterior to who we are - creates a poignant, metaphoric picture. It evokes a palpable, ocular anxiousness. Watch and feel the hairs rise on your neck.
Dolly Ave's keen visual acumen is a credit to her multidisciplinary approach to art and expression. She's an established photographer and cemented that path before pivoting to music proper. In short, she’s a storyteller, and her art - whatever the medium - imbues a DIY, hustler spirit.
Only real life is as serendipitous as this: fellow OTW favorite Tim Atlas actually set Dolly Ave on her path to artistdom. Fate culminates in a feature on the track "Occupied," another gem off her debut album Sleep. The work is laden with compelling songs, demonstrating a veteran approach to artistic delivery despite the nascency of her music. Her life experience is obvious in lines such as "don't bother me, I’m feeling incomplete."
Proud of her Asian heritage, Dolly Ave has wrestled with the tropes of her identity: proud, wanting to be heard and represented, conscious of honoring her family but needing to change the narrative of minority ideals. Much of this struggle to remain authentic to herself is a clear driver of Dolly Ave's sound, visuals, and artist demeanor. She never steers too obviously in any one direction: her vocal sound is soft and subtle, but often layered over ominous bass, or pulsing rhythms. Her visuals cannot hide her natural beauty, but she veers away from compromising her intimate message. Compelling and mysterious, Dolly Ave is a voice needing to be heard. Even if you’re trying not to be pulled in, you will and will be better for it.
Dolly Ave's OTW: CHAI, who lent her talents to "Try" but check out her latest release, a breezy throwback ballad titled "Time's Up."
Dream Lineup: Tyler. the Creator (take notice sir) Thundercat, Earl Sweatshirt, the Beatles, FKA Twigs and Phantogram. We'd be lining up for that.