I consider the 1967 album Chelsea Girl—the debut from a wonderfully weird singer named Nico—a perfect soundtrack for springtime. It’s been a few decades since Nico passed away, but her sound has aged incredibly well.
My first introduction to her music was through one of my favorite films, The Royal Tenenbaums, in which Margot Tenenbaum steps off a bus to the melancholy tune of “These Days.”
Admittedly, I’ve never delved too far into Nico’s discography, but Chelsea Girl has stuck with me. The songs are quietly powerful—not simple enough to be background music, but never in-your-face. “The Fairest of the Seasons,” the first track, is one of the best and has a great opening melody that works perfectly as a hook for the rest of the album.
The instrumentals on this album are lovely and quite accessible; her voice, on the other hand, takes some getting used to. It’s deep, but feminine nonetheless, and she strings words out until they contain more syllables than seemingly possible. Given some time, these quirks are charming.
Nico had a solid following on her own as a solo artist, but her name is probably most recognizable for her involvement with The Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground & Nico—a Grammy Hall of Fame album with Andy Warhol’s famous banana print on the cover—has Nico accredited on every song, though her voice is heard on just a few. Her part on “Femme Fatale” is particularly good.
Chelsea Girl continues to influence musicians today, which says something for a work so subdued. Even Drake did a cover of “These Days” earlier this year (one I highly recommend).