Holly Humberstone – ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ EP review: a perfect storm of hope, selfhood and pain

The staggering debut collection from the Grantham singer showcases staggering emotional clarity and gut-wrenching tales of pain and catharsis

There are certain songs that just leave you floored on first listen and Holly Humberstone’s ‘Deep End’ will be one of them. A weep-worthy illustration of the ice-cold grip of her sister’s depression, aches with longing as twinkling percussion tiptoes alongside gut-wrenching lyrics; “You’ve practised your lines to convince us you’re fine/But I know that’s not where you are”, she confesses. At times, it is too quiet and unbearably sad, but ultimately retains a sense of warmth and compassion throughout, like a flickering candle on a stormy night.

If the remainder or her staggering debut EP ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’, is anything to go by, this moment is likely just the first of many. The collection sees her attempt to find reconciliation with heartbreak and mental health struggles via a minimal approach to bruised, Phoebe Bridgers-shaped indie pop, as pillowy melodies are set to smoky timbres and harmony-rich arrangements, assisted by producer Rob Milton [Easy Life, Maise Peters].

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One wounded pop gem after another, the subdued title track carefully paints a picture of an unfulfilling, one-sided relationship across a delicate keyboard chime. It builds towards a haunting, fuzzy synth lead and series of warped handclaps, yet her crystalline tones never disappear into the mix. ‘Drop Dead’, meanwhile, is a moody ballad reminiscent of Lorde’s ‘Still Sane’ and shares the pattern of ambient, barely-there beats as gently throbbing rhythms make their presence felt.

Lyrically, Humberstone is plain-spoken, exuding honesty and refreshing candour throughout the rousing ‘Vanilla’, “We coast until we hit a red light/Truth is I have my best nights without you”, so goes the unshakeable bridge atop twitchy electronic warbles. There’s also a hint of Sky Ferreira’s understated grunge spirit in the breezy vocal flourishes that pepper the slow-burning ‘Overkill’, an airy, yet secretly confident ode to the woozy highs of falling for someone new: “Don’t wanna be a buzzkill/If I’m coming on strong”, she deadpans, emotionally razed by what may have come before.

Soul-baring and candid, ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ is a deeply affecting collection of songs that solely document Humberstone’s own personal fears and emotions, but the power and grace of her sentiments are sure to resonate universally.

Details

  • Release date: August 14
  • Record label: Self-released
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