‘White Death’ invites us to the depths of Ocean LeClair’s diary as she untangles an intricate web of love and loss

Through angelic vocals and soothing instrumentals, the London-based singer-songwriter captures the essence of feeling deeply, falling hard, and retaining softness when things come undone.
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Emily Whitchurch
Freelance writer and final year student at University College London. Email: emilywhitchurch1@gmail.com

Ocean LeClair is finely tuned to the intensity of human emotion, crafting magical songs out of not-so-magical moments. The London-based singer released White Death on May 10th, which carries listeners through heavy feelings of grief and loss with a comforting lightness thanks to angelic vocals and soothing instrumentals. Juxtaposing the purity of whiteness with the darkness of death, the EP was originally meant to be about falling in love, but took a new direction after LeClair’s breakup; this allowed her to dive deeper into more uncomfortable feelings with poetic, yet unpretentious, lyricism. While the music industry is oversaturated with bitter breakup songs, LeClair offers a fresh perspective as she sets out to explore “the depths of human experience through chaotic loving”White Death captures the essence of feeling deeply and falling hard, but retaining your softness even when things fall apart.

The project opens with the mesmerizing title track “White Death,” where melancholic piano chords immediately cradle listeners in a simple, tender soundscape. The piano provides a consistent rhythm throughout the song, offering a stable foundation for LeClair to build upon with raw lyrics recalling drowsy late-night texts with her ex. “Watch me watch you sleep / white death never felt this sweet,” she sings, as, much like falling asleep, falling in love requires surrendering into a more liminal, transcendental frame of mind. There is richness and ethereality within LeClair’s voice as she creates a track with depth and softness in equal measure. As the piano gently fades out, the final lyric, “and onto all the chronicles,” lingers at the end of the track—LeClair appears to be standing on the verge of a new chapter, bringing listeners with her as she ventures into darker, more complicated territory.

Our next stop on the journey is “Blue Cotton,” which opens with a muffled recording of children’s voices layered with simple guitar strums, transporting us back to childhood innocence. Unpicking her family dynamics and upbringing, LeClair’s lyrics strike a careful balance between what is personal and what is relatable, singing about her brothers leaving home and her blue cotton uniform, while offering universal musings on the aches of nostalgia. “Walking on the edge of my nostalgia / my world now is so much brighter / I’ve got so much more to be,” LeClair embraces the past while keeping her eyes fixed on the future. For the final forty seconds, a fresh sound emerges: guitar twangs ripple across more uplifting, pulsating beats that wash over you and leave you feeling cleansed, reinforcing the power of acceptance, of shedding what no longer serves you, to find peace.

The hopefulness of “Blue Cotton” leads into “In Cards We Trust,” a dulcet track about trusting in something greater than yourself when faced with tough decisions. In this case, LeClair’s breakup is guided by the wisdom of her tarot cards, as she sings about the Two of Swords, which symbolizes a challenging decision or crossroad in life. At first, her mellow voice is accompanied solely by a simple acoustic guitar, creating a gentle intimacy that builds with layers of velvety vocals and a steady rhythm as she gradually unravels the simultaneous sorrow and relief of a relationship ending. Its murmuring bridge carries the same haunting allure as Unloved, the musical trio who soundtracked much of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s TV drama, Killing Eve. Adding a more sinister undertone to the song, LeClair recognizes that acceptance and grief can be intertwined. This is reflected in the chorus—it’s opening lyrics, “now we’re both walking through rain / cleansed of us but also the pain,” show that a relationship loss can also provide relief from its more difficult parts.

Closing the release is the plaintive “Summer Rain,” first released in September 2023. Its title perhaps reflects the unpredictability of grief, which can surface like a sudden downpour on a hot summer day. Indeed, LeClair opens up about familial loss as she returns to her childhood home: “I go back to a place / you and I were / it’s been years / and I know / and I know it’s still there,” she sings wistfully against slow, delicate guitar strums. This ‘place’ may be the physical building she grew up in, but LeClair could also be going back to a time when she was younger, when everything felt easier, surrounded by family. “Summer Rain” maintains a slow pace and yearning tone throughout, as sparse, stripped-back instrumentals allow LeClair to embrace her emotions, laying them bare for listeners to connect with.

Across White Death, it is clear that LeClair values connection with her audience, inviting us to the depths of her diary as she untangles an intricate web of love and loss. The result is an EP bursting with vulnerability without being overly gloomy. Despite the messy, difficult emotions she writes about, LeClair still looks tenderly upon the world, guiding us through the lessons she learns with both softness and strength.

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