TWEETS

Dessa

Emcee | Writer


From its first track, Dessa’s new full-length Parts of Speech (6.25.13, Doomtree Records) announces itself as something different. The Doomtree veteran and inveterate wordsmith — having proved her mettle in the fields of creative non-fiction, spoken-word and hip-hop — jettisons all genre expectations on “The Man I Knew” and croons a heartbreaking lament to a disintegrating relationship at an explosively-building clip.

From this moment on Dessa — oft–described as “Mos Def plus Dorothy Parker” for the wit and flow shown off on previous solo albums A Badly Broken Code and Castor, The Twin — proves she has truly coalesced as an artist, transcending the restrictions of genre to reveal an astonishing multi-platform voice.

“I wanted to investigate the idea that a cohesive record isn’t always made cohesive by having twelve songs that sound the same. I figured when you make a mixtape for a friend, you can get away with a range of genres and a lot of dynamic change. Why can’t I approach an album like that? The sequence has to be just right, and we worked hard to nail it, but the thing that holds this record together is the sensibility of the lyrics, rather than a uniform theme.”

Track two kicks off a stunning hat-trick of the record’s standout numbers. “Call Off Your Ghost” is an admittedly haunting dirge on the “struggle for grace in the wake of a long relationship.” An arena-sized chorus tucked into a melancholy lullaby, “Ghost” has that unique ability to perfectly soundtrack new love or bitter breakup at the same time.

Dessa then puts her fists up for “Warsaw.” The track boasts a beat like Azealia Banks playing Pacman, which provides a background for our emcee’s confident, hypnotic flow. Narrative takes a backseat to mood here, as Dessa spits impressionistic one-ups like “I sleep with both eyes open, standing up,” daring you to blink first.

“Skeleton Key” contains Parts of Speech’s mission statement: “I haven’t met a locked door yet.” An ode to female self-reliance that doesn’t waste ambiance for message, the track plays like a great, lost M. Night Shyamalan movie, calling forth an era out of time in the story of a woman, a key and a bottomless reserve of courage.

“This record involves multiple narratives. It explores the same themes of love, loss, connection and communion as a lot of my work, but the angle and lens through which they’re explored sets this album apart from my previous ones. The production techniques were new for me too — we spent a lot of time crafting a record that could include live players, Doomtree production, and sometimes a blend of the two.”

While the album is born of Dessa’s artistic vision, it benefits from the collaboration of her varied friends. Parts of Speech owes much of its impact to its diverse production. Dessa got her start as a member of Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree — eventually going on to help manage the group’s business affairs as they launched their own label — and members Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger lend their production to several tracks.

The players in Dessa’s live ensemble all contributed to the record, as did several top-flight Minneapolis musicians working in rock, folk, and opera. She even enlisted a cellist she found on Pandora to make the gorgeously-layered foundation of penultimate track “It’s Only Me.”

Dessa, born and raised in Minneapolis after her parents met at a Duluth music store, was valedictorian of her high school, eventually skipping a year of college and graduating with honors before she could legally drink. Armed with a philosophy degree, the intrepid Midwesterner spent her nights as a waitress and days writing reference manuals used by doctors in the implantation of pacemakers.

“Language and verbal communication were important in my family. If I could argue my way into a later curfew, that argument was entertained. My parents may have regretted that policy later but it was a great motivator to help me develop a facility with words.”

A love of words is evident in both Parts of Speech’s title and its ethos, as Dessa’s philosophy training surfaces too. The rousing chorus of “Fighting Fish” references the Greek philosophical paradox of Zeno’s Arrow. “Beekeeper,” polished up from a starker appearance on Castor, finds Greek god Prometheus repossessing fire from the humans. “Sound the Bells” sings of Mercator, the cartographical genius who pioneered flat maps of a round world.

Parts of Speech could be made by no one but Dessa, but in its evolution and awareness it is the perfect culmination of the journey started with 2010’s A Badly Broken Code. Middle album Castor, The Twin was in many ways a blueprint for Speech. The earlier albums were praised widely for their focus and depth, but Speech shows a fantastic breadth.

By uniting a wealth of different tones and narratives under Dessa’s unmistakable poeticism, Parts of Speech greatly resembles Sherwood Anderson’s modernist fiction classic Winesburg, Ohio. Dessa creates a new world, populating it with complex characters, beautiful sonic landscapes and refreshing, assertive production.

An album that can boom out of a car window after its summer release, or soundtrack a November night in, Parts of Speech marks a highpoint in Dessa’s career and demonstrates the crossover power of the rising star’s burgeoning arsenal.

Bio written by Zack Rosen
>ZackRosenIndustries.com

“Enchanting.”
–Chicago Tribune

“Dessa has emerged as one of the most diverse and talented artists in indie rap.”
–URB

“A one-woman powerhouse…with a literary sensibility and an aversion to genre clichés”
–Utne Reader

“If wordsmith-songbird Dessa isn’t the future of hip-hop, she should be.”
-Insight News

“Profound and moving”
-Star Tribune

“equal parts Ani Difranco and Mos Def”
-Rift Magazine

“Dessa combines the dry wit of Dorothy Parker with the beat of Mos Def”
-Minnesota Public Radio

“clear-eyed candor…understated realism and dark wit.”
-Culturebully.com

“witty, sardonic, and keenly observant of human behavior.”
-TheDecider.com

“Absolutely brilliant.”
-Crossfire.com (London)

“A paramount, intimate look into an astonishing human being.”
-OkayPlayer.com

“Dessa stands alone in her brand of music.”
-HipHopDX

Releases

False Hopes
Spiral Bound: a short collection of essays and poetry
A Badly Broken Code
Castor, The Twin

Dessa's Blog

THE LAST DOOMTREE BLOWOUT EVER!!!!!!!!!

Posted on September 30, 2014

ASTRONOMICALLY HUGE NEWS DAY: Yes, you read the heading correctly. This December will mark the tenth and final Doomtree Blowout. 

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Before the rumors ever have a chance of flying around, let’s make one thing clear: This in no way marks the end of Doomtree. When we all met up earlier this year to start planning the big Blowout X, we got to thinking about how incredibly lame and boring the idea of ever throwing a Blowout 11 sounded (let alone a Blowout 18). We’ve been talking for awhile now about wanting to switch things up a bit and challenge ourselves to create new traditions moving forward. With the retrospective Every Single Day book out this past summer and a brand new crew album on the horizon early next year, this just seemed like the perfect time to put an exclamation point on the last decade of awesomeness and close out an important chapter before gearing up for a truly insane 2015. So that’s pretty much that in a nutshell. Now for the glorious details.

12/6-12/13. Saturday to Saturday. 10 events in 8 days. Every hour on the hour we’ll be announcing the details of each unique day’s schedule. For our first show we’ll be taking it over the river to St. Paul and kicking things off  at the newly renovated Turf Club!

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Keep coming back every hour for new details on all eight days! Huge shouts to our sponsors at The Current, Vita.mn, and Surly. Equally huge shouts to the great organizations that we’ll be donating a portion of all Blowout sales to: Southside Family Nurturing CenterAnimal Humane Society, Hope Community Center, Domestic Abuse Project, and Kicker Project. Sign up for the Doomtree Mailing List HERE to get a shot at ticket pre-sales this Thursday. Otherwise, the public on-sale starts at noon this Friday, and a bunch of us will be at The Depot at 4:30 on Friday selling tickets hand to hand.

10:00am UPDATE: Sunday is Surly Doomtree Day! We’re keeping the details on this one pretty close to the chest for now, but here’s the gist. For those that don’t know, Surly is a local beer company that has been killing the game for quite awhile now. We hung out with these guys a lot over the summer and realized how similar the Doomtree and Surly build-it-from-the-ground-up stories are, so we decided to use one of the Blowout days to showcase and bring together our two different worlds of music and beer. Full details coming soon. Stay tuned!

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11:00am UPDATE:  Monday 12/8 we’ll be rocking a super small and intimate show at Icehouse! This night will be a big showcase of all the different musical endeavors our individual members get into when we’re not working on a new crew record. Side projects, tomfoolery, and tons of friends. Anybody’s guess really. Going to be insane.

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12:00pm UPDATE: Doomtree loves the kids! On Tuesday 12/9 we’re christening it Kids Day. Members of Doomtree will be visiting various schools throughout the Twin Cities in the morning and afternoon; reading books to pre-schoolers, teaching workshops with junior high kids, and writing raps with the big high schoolers. Then at night we take it back to the Triple Rock for a huge all ages show. A show for the (all) ages if you will. Dad jokes!

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1:00pm UPDATE: This is a special one. Wednesday 12/10 marks the exact ten-year anniversary of the very first Doomtree Blowout (to the date!). So it only made sense to take things back to the Varsity Theater where everything began. It’s real sentimental for us right now. Our friends at TPT will also be filming this event for a special episode of their Lowertown Line show. TEN YEARS! Crazed.

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2:00pm UPDATE: Now it’s time to bring it all back home to First Avenue, our favorite venue in the entire world and the prime location of every Blowout since our second one. Thursday 12/11 will be an 18+ show in the First Avenue Mainroom. It will be guaranteed NUTZ.

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3:00pm UPDATE: Day 7 of the #LastBlowoutEver will be an epic doubleheader. We’ll start things off at The Current at noon for a live taping, performance, and interview in the acclaimed UBS Forum (more details on how to score passes to that event coming real soon). Then we take things right back to First Ave for our second 18+ show over there before Saturday’s final event. Maaaaaaan this is gonna a fun week.

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4:00pm UPDATE: THE GRAND FINALE! Our tenth and final event will conclude with the last night in a three-night stand at First Avenue. In my opinion the Doomtree Blowout and First Ave are pretty much synonymous with each other at this point. We basically grew up at this venue. I couldn’t imagine closing out the #LastBlowoutEver anywhere else. This one’s for the grown folks. 21+ and I’m sure plenty rowdy. Going out with one hell of a bang.

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BAM! So there you have it. 10 events in 8 days. The last Doomtree Blowout ever. Thanks for following along all day to the hour by hour announcements. If you’ve already signed up for the Doomtree Mailing List, expect an email shortly with special pre-sale ticket information. Otherwise tickets will officially go on sale to the public at 12:00pm CST on Friday. If you’re in the Twin Cities, come on  down to The Depot at 4:30pm on Friday and buy your tickets directly from us. We’ll have 50 “ALL IN” passes that will grant you access to all of the ticketed events, if you’re looking to make a real week out of it (must be 21+, only available in person at The Depot). So excited to have all this news out into the world. Here’s a quick rundown just in case your head is spinning like mine right now.

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Carrier Pigeon

Posted on July 14, 2014

Ahem. (Taps mic.) I’m here today to proudly announce that I’ll be working with Lauren Neal. She’s the artist behind Carrier Pigeon, an independent jewelry studio in Northeast Minneapolis.

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What exactly will our partnership entail? Like most Doomtree initiatives, Lauren and I are just sort of making it up as we go, communicating primarily via late-night text message. I like what she does, she likes what I do–that seemed like enough to go on. I visited Lauren’s studio last week to learn about casting (it got real Mr. Rogers for me), a more exacting process than I imagined.

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Most of Lauren’s designs start with a block of wax. And a knife. This piece of wax is a hollow tube; a thin slice is the starting point for ring design.

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Lauren doesn’t sketch out many of her designs, she instead goes straight to 3-D, using files and fire and all sorts of specialized tools to shape the wax into the form of the ring or bracelet she’s imagined.

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This tool is called a doming block. Holding it made me feel like a she-wizard. (Not sure if wizard is gender-specific, I checked.)

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If she plans on making a few bracelets or rings at once, she’ll replicate her wax form. To do this, she makes a mold of her form in silicone. She’ll then inject hot wax into that mold to set in the exact shape of her original. (I’m using lay terms here, so if you’re with the silversmithing union or something, you might as well log off now, reading further is only gonna drive you nuts.) I took special delight in the fact that the necessary temperature of the wax-injecting machine is “pork” on a meat thermometer.

Next she  secures her wax form in a little heat-safe container (think of a coffeemug that could survive the apocalypse) and pours a clay-like substance called investment over it. When the investment sets, she puts the whole shebang into a little kiln-type-thing. The original wax form melts away, leaving a hollow space in the investment into which she’ll eventually pour silver, gold, bronze.

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Lauren uses recycled metals whenever she can. Here she showed me a little jar of silver shavings that will be melted and reused.

photo 2I took a special liking to a pair of earrings that she created using a process called organic casting. Instead of starting with a wax mold, Lauren started with a couple of wooden matchsticks (she has to buy boxes from the 50s to find the strike-anywhere kind). She poured the investment right over the matchsticks, put the whole thing in the kiln-thing and let the 1250-degree heat burn away the matches. When she shook out the ashe, she was left with a  perfect impression, woodgrain and all, into which to pour molten silver. Pretty rad.

If you’d like to check out more of Lauren’s designs, you can do so here. Otherwise, stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on whatever it is we’re in the middle of scheming up.

Dessa on Tour!

Posted on May 28, 2014

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(photo by Hannah Hoffman)

Dessa and her live band are on tour with WHY? this month Tickets to these shows are still available.

See you at the show!

Date City Venue Country
12.31.14 Dessa in Minneapolis, MN Crystal Ball NYE at @ International Market Square United States
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $30/$60/150. Age restrictions: 21+. Box office: 612-874-8892. Address: 275 Market Street. Venue phone: 612-874-8892. GA: Access to ground floor and ground floor lounges, games and attractions.
VIP: Access to ground-4th floor. Extra Seating, additional bars, games and attractions on each level
Ultra VIP Sky Lounge: Access to entire venue, complimentary drinks all night at the sky bar on 5th floor, VIP lounge, private buffet. Ultra VIP swag bag.
Buy tickets
01.16.15 Dessa in Duluth, MN College of St. Scholastica — Mitchell Auditorium United States
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: $5/$10/$19. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: Auditorium 1200 Kenwood Avenue. Buy tickets
04.23.15 Dessa in London, England The Old Blue Last United Kingdom
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: £10/£12. Address: 38 Great Eastern St, Shoreditch. Venue phone: +44 20 7739 7033. Tickets On Sale On Friday, 28 Nov 2014 At 9:00 AM Buy tickets

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Castor, The Twin LP Available Now!

Posted on April 20, 2014

Yesterday we celebrated Record Store Day in a big way by releasing a limited initial run of Dessa’s Castor, The Twin album on vinyl for the first time ever. Knowing that not everyone would have the opportunity to pick it up at their local shop, we decided to hold on to 180 copies for ourselves and make them available on the Doomtree Webstore starting right NOW!

UPDATE: All limited edition vinyl copies of Castor, The Twin have sold out. The standard black vinyl version is now available HERE

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Click HERE to pick up the limited edition hand-numbered white vinyl, with bonus “Beekeeper” sheet music insert and digital download card, before they’re all gone. Check out this sweet hands on packaging video for the whole rundown. BAM!

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‘Castor, The Twin’ Available On Vinyl For Record Store Day!

Posted on March 20, 2014

BIG NEWS! We’re very excited to announce that on April 19th, in conjunction with Record Store Day 2014, Doomtree Records will release Dessa’s critically acclaimed 2011 full-length Castor, The Twin on vinyl for the first time ever!

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We’re super pumped to join up with countless other awesome bands and labels to celebrate independent record stores worldwide, and we’ve added a ton of sweet features to this limited first pressing of Castor, The Twin to prove it. We made up a total of 1,000 hand-numbered white vinyl pieces for this initial run, and included a very special sheet music insert to standout track “The Beekeeper,” transcribed for piano and vocal arrangement. Check out this quick vizual presentation for all the cool deetz, courtesy of Promo Video Legend God himself, Ander Other.

These albums will be available at Fifth Element and all Electric Fetus locations throughout Minnesota on April 19th, as well as several other independent shops across the country. You can check out tons more info on Record Store Day, as well as a list of all participating stores right HERE. And if you’re uncertain whether or not your hometown store will be carrying this release, feel free to holler in advance and ask them to order that bad boy right up for you. It will be so worth it.

In tour news, Dessa and her full band are gearing up to hit the road again in April. They’ll be gassing up MOUNTAIN and hitting a bunch of Midwestern cities throughout Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and our fine state of Minnesota, kicking things off with a sold out hometown show on March 28th in Minneapolis and concluding the run with a recently announced headlining slot at this year’s Mid West Music Fest on April 23rd. Check out the flyer below for all the details, and click HERE for ticket info.

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BAM! All Dessa Everything. That should pretty much cover things for now. Start getting totally amped for Record Store Day, and I’ll see you next week with more news on another edition of Tuesdays With Lazerbeak.

– Beak

Tuesdays with Dessica

Posted on January 14, 2014

First, let me assure you that Monsieur Lazerbeak is safe and making sounds: he’s on a music-writing retreat with a certain Mr. Ryan Olson. As you might imagine, Beak’s got a lot of work to do before the Twinz arrive—sort of a bucket list for expecting parents. So, kids, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me: the substitute teacher who shows up in last night’s mascara, a cheek full of Reeses Pieces, and a lesson plan she wrote on her palm in the car.

Speaking of mascara, I had the chance to host the last installment of the GRRRL PRTY residency at the Icehouse last Friday. The show sold out before doors and the ladies slayed it. For their grand finale, GRRRL PRTY invited a mess of rappers stage (P.O.S., Spyder Baybie, and Sean Anonymous among them) to perform an extended version of their single “Wegula.” This extended version was called–wait for it–the “Wemix.” Brilliant. The picture below comes courtesy Mark Hanson; click on the image to check out his whole album.

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Apart from Friday’s revelry, I spent most of my week at home, huddled against the radiator in the bathroom. (For those of you logging on from far away: most of this country has been engulfed by what our usually mild-mannered meteorologists are calling a ‘polar vortex.’) Thus huddled, I received an email from Magers & Quinn Booksellers asking me for a list of books that I’d recommend. I selected 10 titles that vary wildly in style and subject matter, but that all landed like little bombs in my brain. If you’re in the market for a literary suggestion, the books I chose are on display at M&Q. I also posted the list on my blog at the Star Tribune site. 

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On the 20th of this month, I’ll be visiting the jurisdiction of the Chicago Tribune (BOOM), to make an appearance on The Dinner Party show. I’ll be part of an episode in which a chef, a film critic, a rapper (ahem), and the lead singer to a cover band are conducted in conversation by the show’s host, Elysabeth Alfano. Guests are served a glass of wine and a dinner of risotto and escargot (whaaat?!). I’ve been practicing a devastating stare, just in case I need it. I’ll also be playing a little unplugged version of “Call Off Your Ghost” with Matthew Santos. You can score tickets here:

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Next month I’ll be switching from wine and escargot to a lovely pairing of Jameson and ice; the band and I are heading back to Lutsen Mountains for our annual melee. The Lutsen shows—charged up by the adrenaline that attendees didn’t spend on the slopes—are always unpredictable. I’ve been practicing a devastating stage dive, just in case I need it. Tickets are still available HERE. Last time the band and I played at Papa Charlies, Dustin, Aby, and I woke up early the next day to record this performance in a gondola made of solid ice:

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Alright, that’s it for today, kids. But before your full attention returns to Snapchat, I’m leaving you with one bonus jam. You may have seen this one on my Facebook page, I think this woman’s got something special (and no, its’ got nothing to do with the bizarre convergence of her name):

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Okay, everybody keep it down and I’ll tell Lazerbeak we covered binomial equations and that you all aced the quiz, deal? Deal.

-Dessa (@dessadarling on Twitter)

 

 

Parts of Speech Packaging and In-Stores

Posted on June 21, 2013

Hey! Parts of Speech drops this Tuesday and we’ve got a brand new video showcasing just exactly what the physical versions of the CD and LP are all about. Check out the sweet promo video below (courtesy of the extremely talented Adam Dunn) to get a glimpse of the real deal album, and also witness the glamorous life of running an indie label out of your living room. Plus you get to hear “Skeleton Key” (track 4 on Parts of Speech) in its entirety, so I’d call that a win/win all around.

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One more thing if you live nearby the state of Minnesota: Dessa and her whole band will be going on a 24 hour record store tour this Tuesday to hang out, sign CDs, and play some of these new songs out live. Things kick off with a listening party and autograph signing at Fifth Element on Monday night at midnight. On Tuesday morning they’ll travel to Duluth for a noon in-store performance at Electric Fetus, followed by a 5:00 in-store performance in St. Cloud (also at the Electric Fetus). Then at 8:00 they’ll bring it all back home to the Minneapolis Electric Fetus for a final performance and autograph signing.

Due to such high demand in the Twin Cities, you will only be guaranteed admittance to the MPLS Fetus show by pre-ordering the CD or LP directly from them (link HERE). Those that do pre-order will receive a bonus gift and first dibs on spots at the in-store. There will also be a second line open to the general public that will be let in on a first come first serve basis once all pre-orderers have been admitted. There are only 250 spots total though, so you might not want to risk it. Pre-order an album from the Electric Fetus right HERE, and check the flyer below for all the details. Hope to see you Tuesday!

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Posted on June 14, 2013

Dessa here, borrowing the blog (and the baby) for a quick update.

I’m writing from the airport, en route to Boston for a storytelling conference (no idea what that is, will report back when it’s over), so I’ll keep it brief. We’re boarding in five minutes and I’m blogging for four and a half.

Last night, I spent a few hours at Lazerbeak’s, signing preorder CDs. Which means I’m heading to Boston with my right forearm smeared with permanent ink. (Somehow, I have a feeling I’ll be asked to tell a story about that as part of an icebreaker session at this conference.)

As empty boxes and shrink wrapping took over Beak’s living room, Penny was kind enough to lend a hand [and face].

The new guy.

The deluxe packages of the CD look awesome. I won’t ruin the full effect, but here’s a close up of the emboss treatment we created just for the project. The preorder closes tomorrow (Saturday) night, so if you’d like to sneak in under the wire, there’s still time to pick up a copy.

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Okay, we’re boarding. One last pic–forgive the Myspace angle; I figured it was warranted in my attempt to capture a pillar of boxes as tall as me. Thanks to all who’ve supported us; we’re excited to get this one out into the real world (and out of Beak’s living room).

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-Dess. (Seat 14E)

Dessa “Call Off Your Ghost” Video Premiere

Posted on June 10, 2013

YES!!! The good people over at ELLE.com just premiered Dessa’s brand new music video for “Call Off Your Ghost,” the second single from Parts of Speech (album drops June 25th via Doomtree Records). The video was directed by Daniel Cummings for Picture Machine Productions. Read ELLE’s write up HERE, and check out “Call Off Your Ghost” below.

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And don’t forget, you have until this Saturday to get your deluxe Parts of Speech pre-order in (HERE). Help us spread the word!

Dessa “Call Off Your Ghost” World Premiere

Posted on May 20, 2013

BAM! The good people over at Wall Street Journal and Speakeasy have just premiered “Call Off Your Ghost,” the smash hit second single from Dessa’s Parts of Speech album, due out on Doomtree Records June 25th!

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Check out the WSJ article right HERE, and stream “Call Off Your Ghost” below for the time being. It will be available for download through all digital retailers tomorrow.

SO GOOD!!! All this awesome news on the heels of last week’s ‘Parts of Speech’ tour announcement. Click the flyer below for all the major deeetz and ticket links. Des Moines (7/6) and Sioux Falls (7/7) just got announced as well!

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Ok, just in case you forgot to check out the song in all of your excitement, here’s “Call Off Your Ghost” one more time. Help us spread the word!