Sarah McLachlan meets Hundred Waters.
I’m somewhat late to the Half Waif party as she approaches her 5th studio album. As a new fan though, she is the perfect time to jump in. For those of you who love the idea of 90’s Sarah McLachlan mashed up with Austra or a more off-kilter Sylvan Esso – you’ll feel right at home. I did after the first listen and subsequently went back through Half Waif’s back catalogue to discover other more rock-tinged gems afterwards.
‘Mythopoetics’ is a wonderfully diverse album of indie-pop synth-laden bops and contemplative impassioned ballads. All the tracks fall somewhere on that scale but very few land close to each other. For instance, you’ll have the quiet piano and voice opener ‘Fabric’ and ‘Powder’ but they act as upward/downward opposites of each other. The other two big ballads are crammed with production. ‘Sodium & Cigarettes’ has beams of organs blaring out over twisted vocals whilst ‘Sourdough’ flits between moods like a fit of rage into calm and back again. The songs underneath them could all work with or without the production switch-ups though – they are just well-written tracks.
I really gelled with the curious way Half Waif writes her uptempo numbers though. She is happy to add in curious arpeggios over harmonium blows and synths and let her vocals lead the chorus. ‘Swimmer’ is a fantastic example of creating a pop song that takes everything a pop song should have and makes it feel special and emotional. ‘Take Away The Ache’ plays with glissando synth bubbles and skittish drums like Hundred Waters. A lot of the electronica focused tracks remind me of that duo in all the good ways. Then you have the dramatic mid-tempo numbers of ‘Fortress’ and ‘Party’s Over’ – both of which showcase Nandi Rose Plunkett’s (Half Waif) voice. The former allows her to bellow and roar, the latter shows a softer side. ‘Horse Racing’ somehow manages to merge both sides together in a dream state. I could listen to the largely vocal-only finale over and over as what sounds like about sixteen vocal loops all collide in a fluffy cloud.
There is just so much to love from beginning to end that I think I’ve found my favourite alt-pop album of 2021 already. Smooth sounding but fierce with emotion, Half Waif has made a corker of an album. In two weeks I’ve gone back and bought all her other albums – that’s how good it is. If you haven’t discovered Half Waif before, now is the time. Enjoy.
Recommended track: Swimmer
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