MTV U is proud to present the delightful discovery of Odessa Chen. Having already worked with artists such as Wilco’s Nels Cline and on the heels of acclaim for her newest album The Ballad of Paper Ships, Chen already has a new record planned for the upcoming hear. She continues to prove herself an unstoppable force with one powerful voice.
(from a feature on MTV U’s Ahead of the Curve playing in college campuses across the country and online)


This one has logged many, many hours in my stereo – imagine Godspeed You! Black Emperor with an astonishing female vocalist. It’s just a little too… harrowing… for on-the-go listening. — George Zahora


Hyperliterate songsmith Odessa Chen, brings deceptive strength to fragile solo arrangements, taking cues from pensive rockers like Low and Cat Power. (She) plays stark, acoustic tunes with all the grace and drama of Kristin Hersh.


PlayGuitar, a national magazine associated with Acoustic Guitar and Guitar Player, features Odessa on the cover.


Odessa Chen’s self-released One Room Palace is different, special and shiny. It’s lonely, autumnal music, often quiet but with deep reserves of raw emotion… by George Zahora, Issue 17


August 2008’s Hotlist.


Ambiguity and surprising connections in Chen’s lyrics keep listeners riveted. On “Harm,” a “cupful of tears” leads to a desire “to sleep beneath the surface of the water. On the title track, lovers part like oyster shells and clouds, or rock “like boats, anchored/to go, to sail with abandon,” while memories are “bits of paper/blown around the streets at night” and “ghosts casting nets.”A student of poetry, Chen gets the most out of her literary images, finding unity in unusual places. Combined with spare instrumentation and a haunting voice — part Hope Sandoval–narcotic, part sensitive-strong Shannon Wright — her dreamscapes evoke a complex depth of feeling.Read the full feature here:
— Sam Prestianni

Local singer-songwriter Odessa Chen is self-taught on guitar and classically trained in cello and voice; she belonged to choirs specializing in medieval styles. Her singing is mellifluous as the late Jeff Buckley’s, while her distinctive songs balance temperate emotional intimacy with wintry shoegazer and dreamscape ambiance. The history of her band (Devin Hoff, Rich Douthit, Roger Riedlbauer) is another plus, crisscrossing the Bay Area’s indie-rock and cutting-edge jazz scenes.
— Mark Keresman

Local bird Odessa Chen has been compared to a lot of other singers, all of them good. For example, the irresistibly sweet-voiced Jeff Buckley comes up a lot…The two have pretty but complex voices, lyrics good enough to break the flintiest heart.


Singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen, a fact that makes the good ones really stand out.Though her haunting songs are strong enough to stand on their own, Paper Ships once again finds Chen backed by an impressive array of helpers including Wilco’s Nels Cline, Tarentel’s Danny Grody, and Xiu Xiu’s Devin Hoff. The dreamy compositions-aided by cello, french horn, and more-are much too straightforward to get her lumped in with the freak folk scene, which acts as a double edged sword: She may be toiling in relative obscurity now, but her pure talent seems destined to take her much further than any fad could.
~Marc Hawthorne


“The Illustrated Book of Invisible Stories,” created by choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton, made its encore performance January 14 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The performance included 24 dancers, 8 musicians and the songbird voice and guitar playing of Odessa Chen. The whole production seemed propelled by breath. For example, there was a fluid “wall” of dancers who moved simultaneously with their combined respiration. Dancers were moved up and down the “wall” with soft movements, giving the illusion of someone floating on water. The whole production was perfectly seamless, telling stories of humor and love through electrifying music and exceptionally talented dancers. It was a book I wished would stay open.

Odessa Chen rises above the mundane associations with the icelandic imp {bjork} with pretty, moody tunes…


Odessa Chen is a rare talent, simply stated. She has the songwriting and lyric-crafting chops to send shivers up and down the spine of listeners, and her voice is truly a thing if sheer beauty. Chen shows on The Ballad of Paper Ships that the genius of her debut was no fluke. In actuality, she’s come into her own with The Ballad of Paper Ships, writing, producing, and performing a spectacular and shimmering work of intensity. Stunningly executed, The Ballad of Paper Ships is a wondrous CD, and well worth the four year wait. Chen is a true artist in a day when songcraft and performance have given way to gaudy production tricks and image. Fans of Low, Cat PowerEarly Day Miners’ most haunting and subtle moments, and Jeff Buckey take note…you have a new hero in Odessa Chen.


Venus Magazine with Sleater Kinney on the cover features a great review: Odessa Chen’s first, self-released album, One Room Palace, is a meteorological phenomenon. It is a spooky, stormy, sonically impressive debut from a singer-songwriter with something seriously heavy weighing on her chest. This is the type of gloom that’s been missing from the pop music landscape for some time now, the kind Mazzy Star gave us…captivating, tender, beautiful.


Issue 13#5 features an article on DIY women,“Self-Made Women” by Kimberly Chun.


Her voice is haunting, a high, sweet whisp of sound, sometimes no more than a whisper. Oaklander Odessa Chen’s instrument lingers in the mind long after her origional songs have told their tales of love, regret, longing, and death. by Jason Serinus


Along the same lines as Shannon Wright and Chan Marshall, showcasing her breathy vulnerability over graceful, almost classical finger-picked guitar. Chen recently opened up for Mark Eitzel…


Offbeat songwriters like Jeff Buckley, Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam and Kate Bush provided the inspiration {for One Room Palace} but the songs carve out a territory all their own, insinuating themselves into your subconscious and setting up housekeeping. One Room Palace evokes quieter responses in keeping with it’s soft, ethereal and generally lovely qualities.


With “One Room Palace”, Odessa Chen has crafted one of the strongest releases in the independent music world this year…yearning, delicate, wintry, earthy, intelligent, chilling, intricate, folksy, dark, and comforting,…Chen shows a sensitivity in her singing that is largely absent in both mainstream and underground music. An interview is also at


Sometimes music can be so gut-wrenchingly sad. And if it’s good enough, you want to keep listening, despite the reminders of heartache and loss. One Room Palace is one of those CD’s. Odessa Chen’s debut solo album grabs you from beginning to end, and then makes you want to listen to it again because you know you missed something the last time around. Chen’s lyrics are smart and she sings them with intensity and an impressive vocal range. Her voice alone is haunting and keeps you mesmerized long after the song is done.


One Room Palace is slow and gentle, like a stormy sky in slow motion before the rain hits. And then it hits. Chen and co-producer Jeff Byrd combine her delicate vocals and dramatic lyrical content with dreamlike, ever-changing musical arrangements powered by themes of love and death, longing and beauty.This is an album best listened to played loud—but with quiet focus. The emotional power driving this heartfelt music demands it.


Equal parts shoegaze dreaminess, symphonic elegance and Bjorkesque quirkiness, One Room Palace is an enveloping listen that drew me in with it’s beauty, charm and mixture of delicacy and strength. Volume doesn’t always equal power. The quiet power that emerges as you listen to One Room Palace is palpable and immediately evident.


**** four starsHer voice sounds quite amazing as usual and has a ghostly resonance that hangs in your mind long after listening…this LP also sounds rather brilliant. It has a really slick production and it sits very well with Odessa’s gentle, but powerful voice.


With impressive aesthetics, style, grace, and candor, Chen delivers.


Odessa Chen. Turns out she’s staggeringly talented and amazing, an absolutely gorgeous voice, beautiful songs, wonderfully played on guitar. I have been unable to enthuse enough about her.


Sometimes it’s a delicate, light falling, with tones and notes gently breezing by, and when the songs rise, a storm is conjured. To add to the majesty, Odessa possesses a voice of wonder.


Her voice at once harbors a precious childlike quality and a beautiful sadness that aims straight for the heart. Chen is quite the poet as well. When she sings lines like “time rolls back storm clouds in reverse, and somewhere in the place where heaven should be, side by side we sleep,” you start to suspect you’ve stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.


Forget about all the pretty songbirds who primp and tease their way through vapid three minute tunes about boys. Odessa Chen offers shelter from the diva storm. Chen maneuvers through a series of tracks that appear to be about hurt with uncommon heart, allowing the listener to immerse themselves in the gentle outlines rather than the gut-wrenching specifics. One Room Palace serves as a reminder that there is warmth and light in the often cool and dimly-lit world.


The Bay Area isn’t short of angelic-voiced, building-moving, hair-raising singer/songwriters, and Odessa Chen is right up there at the top of the list. Sparse, lonesome melodies are given life by Odessa Chen’s breathy, spirited voice.


Odessa Chen’s vocal, when introduced, elevates proceedings to an ethereal level, introspective and somehow incredibly touching. A highly recommended listen for those with a broken heart or insomnia, lovely music.

– review of Charles Atlas record with guest vocals by Odessa from