The Walls Are Way Too Thin
Last month, rising musical star Holly Humberstone appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, performing her charging new single, “Scarlett.” While the 21-year-old’s setup – guitar, keyboard, drum machine, herself – might seem more at home in a dive bar than on a primetime stage – Humberstone’s confidence and presence downplayed any perceived limitations. This applies as well to her second EP – The Walls Are Way Too Thin – where thoughtful lyrics and passionate performances help to transcend some of the more predictable aspects of her music.
Humberstone’s debut release, last year’s self-released Falling Asleep at the Wheel EP, was a tasteful set of yearning ballads and more uptempo numbers, though one perhaps a bit too beholden to Lorde and Phoebe Bridgers. Her latest, released on Polydor and Interscope, still bears a bit of a “RIYL Melodrama” stamp, like the hushed conversational vocal stylings of “Thursday.” But the song – and others – are lifted by the progression, building from moody strumming to tense electronics, and Humberstone’s sharp observations of trying to rebuild after the end of a relationship, particularly a line about not finding salvation through a box of hair dye.
Though not explicitly cited as a “breakup EP,” The Walls Are Way Too Thin is at its best when Humberstone is unpacking post-relationship complexities. On the directly-titled “Please Don’t Leave Just Yet,” a collaboration with 1975’s Matty Healy, Humberstone, occasionally pitch-shifting her vocals, admits to not being ready to say goodbye to a partner and the comfort of their love. On the title track, she sings about the pain of living with an ex while they’re seeing someone else, with a singalong chorus that validates insecurities without treating them as inherently virtuous. Plenty of other pop artists have acknowledged breakup difficulties through a nuanced lens, such as Olivia Rodrigo and Tinashe, but Humberstone’s skill in making her experiences specific to her is impressive.
Less impressive is the overall songwriting, which never goes off the rails, but which also rarely surprises the way one of Humberstone’s keener observations might. The stately piano melody and hesitant singing of opener “Haunted House” feel like Humberstone aiming for sophistication at the expense of passion, and for every moment she hits the gas, she’s also riding the brake pedal. As she says on closer “Friendly Fire,” “Teenage affection is often confusing,” but The Walls Are Way Too Thin succeeds most when Humberstone dissects that confusion, unconcerned with ever arriving at a definitive solution.
Order The Walls Are Way Too Thin by Holly Humberstone HERE
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