If we were to dig deep into your Voicenotes, what would we find? A drunken ramble on the last train home, when you thought you were actually on the phone to your mate? (Just me?) Perhaps even a muffled recording of the night you searched all over to find your misplaced device – always check down the side of the sofa.
For Alaina Castillo, however, the function on her smartphone would be where she’d record all of her most vulnerable moments. The Texas-born singer would whisper or sing emotions and thoughts into her phone to make for a virtual diary. It’s a fitting tool for this era. Gen Z creatives aren’t just harnessing the power of new technology to be a part of their story, on this occasion it is the story.
The 19-year-old’s second EP, ‘the voicenotes’ is an intimate triumph. What started as snapshots of fleeting emotions has evolved into something much larger and cohesive. The album’s overarching concept and songwriting style bolstered by the direct nature of her songwriting. Whereas ‘Antisocial Butterfly’ was a tentative arrival – cautiously showcasing her tendency to flit between being an introvert yet craving human interaction – this four-track EP comes good on showing the raw emotions rattling around her head.
That pivot to open was influenced by the fact that there’s certainly audience clamouring for that. The singer started out by cultivating a fanbase on YouTube where she’d cover artists like Billie Eilish and perform ASMR lullabies, eventually evolving into a songwriter in her own right. For this release, she committed to sharing a two versions one sung in English and another in Spanish, a language she’s spoken since a young age. A cult following on Instagram has proven that she speaks a universal language: one of heartbreak.
That’s when this release is at its most intriguing. On ‘Just A Boy’ – cheekily pillaging a similar minimal melody to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ – she confronts gaslighter (“You can tell me all this shit is in my mind/That I’m just a spiteful, psycho”) coming out the other side the bigger person. ‘Sad Girl’, meanwhile, is as serene and startling as anything on Billie Eilish’s debut, but Castillo’s knack for striking imagery of a “Blood orange flooding the bay” separates the two.
The leap between ‘Antisocial Butterfly’ and ‘the voicenotes’ is largely one for songwriting. Her voice is more commanding and striking than before, though the next frontier to conquer is to build on the restrained instrumentation which allows it to do so. What is certain, however, is the confidence and honesty to delve deep into the most intimate of moments and make them accessible for all. Few can master that so early on in their career.
Release date: April 24
Record label: Chosen People