PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Half Waif Searches for Home on 'Lavender'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Half Waif's new album is a veritable masterpiece. Each track intimately explores questions both large and small about relationships, politics, nostalgia, and identity.

Lavender
Half Waif

Cascine

27 April 2018

Lavender is an album in motion. Nandi Rose Plunkett -- the mastermind behind the project -- has made name for herself as an artist who delicately yet deliberately searches for home. Lavender continues this journey through 12 tracks that are fantastically in flux.

Many are familiar with Half Waif because of the perhaps-controversial success of Pinegrove, of which bandmates Adan Carlo and Zack Levine are also members. With this venture, Plunkett and company permanently prove their place as a force to be reckoned with in their own right. Though the successful elements of Pinegrove are definitely present-- a love for story, an instant and indescribable familiarity between artist and audience, and even perhaps a nod to breakthrough album Cardinal in the opening song-- this album shows that Half Waif is stepping out from the shadows of projects past and taking the spotlight.

Essentially, Lavender feels like three distinct albums. The first is a straightforward pop album. Tracks like "Torches", "Solid 2 Void", and "Lilac House" could be classified as such. Here, Half Waif clearly draws upon the influence of their contemporaries and friends, channeling sounds popularized by Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan, Angel Olsen, and even Lorde. With their cotton candy beats and Auto-Tune vocals, it would be simple to cast these tracks off. However, in many ways, tracks like this have been the backbone of the Half Waif project. These tracks are most similar to earlier albums, drawing a golden thread through the group's discography as a whole.

Then, there's the tour album, with songs encompassing the idea of being on the road and returning to a constantly shifting home. The thesis statement lies for this section lies in "Keep It Out", when Plunkett sings, "We seek to settle, we make a home / It's fun for a little until it's old." A heavily relatable sentiment, this theme births the most breathtaking track on the album, "Back in Brooklyn". The track is a soft piano album that is perhaps most accurately described as a love child between the piano of Regina Spektor and the restless melancholy of Joan Didion. Plunkett gently sings, "I called you up when I got back / Where have you been? / Don't ask me that." At times, the dialogue between vocals and piano make it unclear whether the piano is another voice, or if Plunkett's voice has transcended into an actual instrument.

Finally, the third album is a more tricky beast. Plunkett brings us with her as she searches for her identity in her constantly shifting world. Plunkett processes the legacy her grandmother left behind in opening track "Lavender Burning", a beautiful ode to memories of places and people. "Parts" adds a political shade in Plunkett's struggle for selfhood, as she muses, "I'm sitting here crying 'cause I'm alive. / I don't know why I'm still in this country." In her lyrics, Plunkett struggles with the need to be alone with the urge to surround herself with familiar people and places. Sonically, this need is fuelled by fluid, and sometimes dissonant, instrumentation.

So how do these three distinct themes fit together? Apparently, perfectly. The album is organized effectively, transitioning from heavy tracks to relatively consumable songs. This is also a testament to the power of David Tolomei. In addition to Half Waif, Tolomei sports an impressive resume, having worked with many heavy-hitters including Beach House, Dirty Projectors, and the Antlers. Credited with drums, piano, and Wurlitzer recording and engineering along with the mixing of the project, it's clear that his careful hand helped facilitate the effortless flow of Lavender.

Most of all, the emotion behind the songs ties them together. That's what makes this album stand out. There's no way to measure how much feeling is embedded in a piece of art. It's impossible to quantify what makes an album sound personal. However, it's clear when it's heard, and Half Waif certainly has it. Each track intimately explores questions both large and small about relationships, politics, nostalgia, and identity. Plunkett's transcendent writing is the needle that threads all of it together. Lyrically, she does some of her best work so far on Lavender. Distilled, the lyrics to "Silt" could be confused for an excerpt from poet-laureate Warsan Shire's oeuvre. I tried to pinpoint the most emotionally resonant line in penultimate track "Salt Candy" and ended up circling every line. These incredible lyrics paired with the inimitable work by Carlo, Levine, and Tolomei creates a complicated, surprising, and ultimately quite a beautiful piece of art.

My biggest complaint about Lavender is that it ends. But as Plunkett sings in the final song, "Ocean Scope", we all know that it has to.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.