Sarah Kinsley made her first big mark in 2021 with EP ‘The King’, a collection of effervescent songs bursting with joy and promise. Then a college student, Kinsley wrote music inspired by love, emotion, New York City and young adulthood. “Prophecy might be following me”, she mused with hope on ‘Cypress’. “You’re still young and you’re still free… I wanna be the king!”, she declared triumphantly on breakout hit ‘The King’. Kinsley’s captivating, wonder-filled outlook and innovative production style garnered her a sizeable online audience by her early 20s.
‘Ascension’, Kinsley’s third EP, picks up from the boldness and optimism of its predecessors with the benefit of a more lived-in perspective from Kinsley as she has grown up. ‘Ascension’ presents itself as a palette of mixed emotions; a rumination on the idea of time, and how malleable the concept can feel as a young person. Time races past in a mind-bending blur, yet can sometimes feel suspended in the air, with whole universes of experiences condensed into a few short moments. “Maybe the feeling disappears in it”, Kinsley sings on ‘Sliver of Time’. “But for one night and one night only, you can say you knew me.”
Opener ‘Oh No Darling!’ swoons with choral voices, cymbal crashes and the invigorating beat of an electric guitar, reminiscent of the punk pulse of Wet Leg’s ‘Chaise Longue’. It’s a visit back to Kinsley’s younger self, a girl “running with her head for the sake of living on the edge”. The song careens through the confusion of navigating past and present selves. “Are you really there?”, Kinsley asks aloud. “I wonder if she knows of the sweeter days / Stuck inside the second decade.”
EP standout ‘Black Horse’ sees Kinsley question her place in the world. Sonically, the song flits between electric shimmers and sparse piano as it dances between dark themes and defiant optimism. It also showcases Kinsley’s immense talent as a vocalist, her voice controlled and meticulous in one moment, then unleashed in the next to soar, unrestrained, over wild highs. Kinsley’s lyrics are sharp and searching, punctuated with bursts of disarming lucidity: “Something in me screams to be wild, to be obscene”, she urges, “to stop playing the first born daughter in your American dream.”
‘Ascension’ sounds, and feels, like a growing up record, a testament to the ambition and recklessness of Kinsley’s younger self now tempered with thoughtful reflection. Whilst grounded in the clear-eyed earnestness of pop tradition, ‘Ascension’ plays confidently in a spirit of bold creative experimentation.
- Release date: June 9
- Record label: Verve Forecast/Decca Records UK