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Music

Sophia St. Helen's 'None the Wiser' Takes Us on a Journey of the Soul (premiere) (album stream)

Photo: Courtesy of the Planetary Group

Indie folk's Sophia St. Helen makes an impressive debut with her album, None the Wiser, an ethereal expression on love, heartache, and self-discovery. Stream it in full ahead of release tomorrow.

Sophia St. Helen's debut album, None the Wiser, has been quickly gaining steam in the lead-up to its 1 May release. Although she is a relatively new face in the Bay Area folk scene, the singer-songwriter has become well-regarded for the atmospheric and multifaceted warmth of her indie-folk. Earlier this year, single "Like a Fog" garnered acclaim for the melancholy dreamscape that St. Helen had crafted, enveloping itself around a message of interwoven self-doubt and forgiveness.

With its premiere today, one can observe that these are overarching themes throughout most of None the Wiser's run-time. St. Helen iterates and reiterates this hopeful melancholy throughout, inferring another ounce of wisdom garnered in each experience or philosophy expressed. Exploring such themes as self-reflection and -discovery offers ample room for St. Helen to lend her sweet, welcoming croon to any number of shifts in musical ambiance. Opener "Honey" is a soft, mystifying folk tune accentuated by a hefty bassline and distant guitar. In contrast, triumphant electric guitar defines the old-school soul of "Comfort in Crying" between verses. "Like a Fog" simmers in a key-centric anti-folk reminiscent of early Fiona Apple, whereas "What the Heart Wants" leans into lustful, ethereal rock with a droning psychedelic chorus that feels more like Mitski.

All serving the same overarching theme, stapled together by St. Helen's remarkable voice, keeps None the Wiser grounded. Each track is a unique expression of musicality that seamlessly flows through that same journey of the soul. Other highlights include the honest, lilting Americana of "Until Clouds Appear" and album closer "Tomorrow's on Its Way". Featuring no more than St. Helen and her piano, the arrangement's delicate craft gives listeners a full window into the artist's heart.

When asked about its themes, St. Helen states that None the Wiser is about, "Love, heartbreak and soul searching. Experiencing the dreaminess of love as well as the heartbreak of letting go, and ultimately discovering how to be alone. Pretty classic themes, but always relevant."

According to the artist, None the Wiser was chosen as the album's title to "link three notions into one phrase". For one, "It means, failing to learn from one's experiences. The album's music is the storytelling of affairs of the heart, break-ups, soul searching, regret, and repeating the same." Furthermore, the word "wise" is the very meaning of St. Helen's first name in Greek.

Lastly, an owl is featured on its cover and throughout each of its music videos with a purpose, as a symbol of wisdom. "The owl, Jules, is prominently featured in the 'Like a Fog' video where the lyrics reference wisdom. The owl makes an appearance in each music video, and an owl symbol is Sophia St. Helen's logo."

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