Heather Styka Touches on Personal and Political Change with "O'Hare" (premiere)

Like many of her contemporaries, Heather Styka's brand of folk touches on changes both civic and personal. Recorded with Danish band the Sentimentals at her family's Wisconsin lake house, her new album, North, is no different in those general regards. Plenty of its contents were written directly following the results of 2016's U.S. presidential election, charged with a strike of protest and disbelief. A worthwhile sentiment in itself, Chicago singer-songwriter Styka takes the classic folk protest album and injects stories reflective of her life leading up to that fateful moment for the world.

The result is an album full of songs that do more than raise a fist in anger or denote a moment of universal heartbreak. The poignant stances that Styka takes when she advises us all to love each other in an increasingly divisive world are that much more powerful with her innate ability to relate her own life's story to it all. That can be plainly heard on single "O'Hare", where she takes a moment to sit back and take a gander at the airplanes flying over her hometown. She paints a picture of momentary peace, finding familiarity and warmth in even the smallest things from back home.

Styka tells PopMatters, "Driving near Chicago's O'Hare Airport, at the right time of night, the flight pattern of all the planes forms this strange line of blinking lights in the sky. Chicago is changing, so many neighborhoods and cities are changing, and I'm ambivalent about that evolution. Opening a new upscale taco restaurant on the north side doesn't help the kid on the south side who's going to get shot tonight. But when the world is in chaos, I find some comfort in noticing patterns like the blinking plane lights in the sky."

Other Articles


Robert Christgau's 'Is It Still Good to Ya?'

Robert Christgau is the rare critic who can write insightfully and passionately about a sweaty performance by a popular Congolese soukous band and a magisterial show by Senegal's Youssou N'Dour. That magic is captured in his latest anthology, Is It Still Good to Ya?


The 70 Best Albums of 2018

From forward-looking electronic and experimental to new approaches in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and punk to rock and pop, 2018 bestowed an embarrassment of musical riches upon us.