The hard truth is, no matter how many albums we review each year, there are always countless releases that end up overlooked. That’s why, this month, we’re bringing back our
No Album Left Behind
series, in which the Paste Music team has the chance to circle back to their favorite underrated records of 2021 and sing their praises.
Erika de Casier’s buttery, woozy Sensational shows the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter blossoming into the ‘90s- and early-2000s-shaped sound of her 2019 debut Essentials, clearly becoming more confident in her hushed voice than before.
On Sensational, de Casier longs for the right kind of romance. She embraces her independence. She’s defiant and spryly in control at every moment of the situations she croons about, even amidst all the relationship drama she’s endured.
Born in Portugal and raised in Denmark, de Casier satisfied her musical and cultural cravings through MTV. She particularly connected with R&B’s rich lyricism and warm bass. On de Casier’s second solo album, she absorbs her influences’ every beat and characteristic, but makes them feel timeless, rather than stuck in the past. She finds a way to slyly make R&B the essence of a track, rather than the focus.
Sensational takes the genre of bedroom pop to heart—creating an album that is so interior that it feels like it was made in the most intimate of spaces, and you’re experiencing de Casier’s innermost thoughts. It is that strict focus on the personal that makes the lyrics so succulent, observant and wise.
De Casier’s graceful whispers and witty lyrics allude to something more than the typical bedroom-pop track—de Casier could easily make a riveting, bass-drenched 2000s-inspired club track like “Do My Thing” and other dance-focused songs off Essentials—but instead, she plunges deep into her late-night thoughts and indulges in more introspective, feathery tunes.
Listening to Sensational feels like velvet—and not only in the typical soft, luxurious way. It’s more like when your fingers graze the fabric without any friction, then travel the opposite direction—to something not polished, nor smooth. The velvet becomes rigid and densely textured, still soft, lush and elegant, but also substantial and robust. De Casier’s whispers are accompanied by a plethora of harps, various other strings and orchestra instruments, nostalgic-sounding synths exuding the best of older R&B and dense, buffered sub-bass that weaves it way through the entire album.
De Casier often takes jabs at those who’ve wronged her through a precise delivery that always lands, like a seasoned comedian with a fierce sense of the power behind her voice. De Casier exudes a Sade-like suaveness with a humorous edge on album standout “Polite.” She is anything but, confidently dishing on how she’s been mistreated. At times, an echoed voice of her own emerges to back up her point—like a best friend including their own dialogue. From there, a juicy conversation emerges. As de Casier purrs, “You don’t show a lot of class,” she repeats, “no class” just to make things even more clear. It’s cheeky, just like her subsequent reminder that “You don’t show a lot of class … If you wanna be my type / You better start being polite.”
On the glitzy “All You Talk About,” de Casier fusses over her beau’s obsession with Versace and Fendi. In a very sassy, Destiny’s Child-like manner, she sings, “I want diamonds, but you can’t buy my love.” Her frustration flows with each word, and the rhythm-rich, lightly rapped, ‘90s-drenched track becomes therapeutic—because who would want to deal with an oblivious, label-chasing partner, anyway?
“Someone to Chill With” is one of the album’s more danceable tracks, with synths steadily integrating themselves in the midst of whimsical harps. The hearty bass and shy, shimmering electronics create a quietly powerful anthem of seductive bedroom-pop perfection. Harps and dance music do not sound particularly promising as one, but de Casier makes it work seamlessly, achieving a timeless charm. The song is followed by a strings-soaked interlude, “Acceptance – Intermezzo,” that provides steady ground for the album.
From the plush, entrancing “Make My Day” to the wispy harps on “No Butterflies, No Nothing,” de Casier has fully embraced a clean-cut sound of misty, warm tones and R&B sweetness. Her sound on Sensational is seductive and hushed, and she adopts a poise that can easily draw a cult following. Give into de Casier’s allure, before her enchantment becomes far more than just a whisper.
Ana Cubas is a music writer based in New York, who also occasionally dabbles in film reviews. Her focus is arts and cultural criticism.