The voice is a powerful tool and one that can often out-perform any instrument. For Half Waif’s latest release, there’s a sense of confidence behind an album full of worry that tells a story of someone trying to find themselves again. While there’s often a brooding energy and slow pace to the record, it’s easy to find its songs going somewhere wondrous.
The digital ring of “Lavender Burning” creates a wonderful base for Nandi Rose Plunkett’s singing to float on. Though the song expands from a steady meditation to a punchy drum-piece, it’s Plunkett’s visual lyricism that carries the song. An off-kilter beat really sets up “Torches” as a strange and intriguing beast long before it drops through waves of harmony. It’s strange however how many iterations Plunkett carries it through as the song feels more like three separate ideas than one evolving track.
“Keep It Out” takes a much darker and creeping approach in its arrangements as Plunkett uses her voice to reach out from its ethereal depths. As the synth arpeggios start to build however, the song becomes an explosive power ballad to make you want to come back again and again. There’s a power to the beat of “Lilac House” however that is immediately intoxicating and makes its sparkling synths all the more fun. As every other hook leans into this dynamic and offbeat energy the song is excitingly aggressive and shows a sense of abrasive intention in Plunkett’s writing.
The descending neon keyboards of “In The Evening” continue this frantic rush of energy, but with a much more classical vocal delivery. Using a more rustic and folky energy in its percussion, the track expands the sonic range of the album into a powerfully organic world. Warm pop shines through on the sadness of “Solid 2 Void” as Plunkett seems to reflect with a sense of hope in her sorrow. Luckily her warped take on electronic arrangements goes overboard on this track, as much of the base of the song becomes familiar very fast.
“Silt” has a desolate tone to its synths and raspy beats, and leaves Plunkett’s vocals as a pained remnant of something that once lived happily. This creepy tone expands throughout the song to show just how much wonder is left in Plunkett and show a real inner beauty that takes patience to appreciate. The piano runs of “Back In Brooklyn” show a romantic but jaded reflection on a past that’s better left behind. While Plunkett sheds much of the album’s synths here, there’s so much emotion in the song that it stands tall on its own.
Moody sci-fi energy holds things together on “Parts” as the St. Vincent undertones come to the forefront on a track about hiding your true feelings. As Plunkett reveals more and more of how uncertain she is, the track becomes a blooming synth piece that in turn expands with her. “Leveler” sinks into a jazzy piano glide, that can feel as groovy as it can forgettable. In its sprawling moments however, Plunkett attains a cinematic luster and wonder that few can hold down quite as powerfully.
A coastal sense of worry infects “Salt Candy” as a Plunkett invokes a sense of place with sparse lyrics before her sound-work complements her. It’s the unbearable sense of loneliness that she brings up however that makes the song’s big sonic leap feel so satisfying. Though it really slows things down for a moment, “Ocean Scope” takes the record out on a pummeling beat and a cool sense of frantic and anxious energy.
Words by Owen Maxwell