You only have to wait a mere 10 seconds to hear Nandi Rose Plunkett’s arresting vocals after starting Half Waif‘s new EP, form/a. And from there you’re fortunate enough to experience it rather consistently for the remainder of the effort’s 20-minute runtime. Plunkett’s voice is never front and center in her work with Pinegrove, but here it’s the star of the show—and in a night sky of indistinguishable shines and glows, Plunkett’s delivery is Sirius.
In opener “Severed Logic,” Plunkett sings, “My mood is a pendulum/I don’t think you can handle it.” This serves as somewhat of a thesis statement for the EP as a whole; it may stick to the walls of your mind as you navigate through the many motions, maneuvers, and personal revealings of each of its six tracks. Between the pounding buzzsaw rhythm of “Wave” and the airy, dreamlike hypnosis of “Magic Trick,” there are two definitive ends to the sonic spectrum of form/a with a bevy of dynamics in between.
Even within individual tracks, such as “Frost Burn” and “Night Heat,” there are several elements strewn throughout that somehow manage to work cohesively in stunning fashion. Layers of synth, minimalist beats, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and both time signature and tonal shifts are all sewn together into a warm quilt of Half Waif’s own brand of indie pop. It’s not that this is unheard of, but on paper it almost seems as though these tracks should feel cluttered. Plunkett and her band—fellow Pinegrove members Zack Levine (drums) and Adan Carlo (bass)—aren’t just any ordinary songwriters and musicians, though. I mean, have you listened to Cardinal?
While some of the production choices (e.g. the openings of both “Wave” and “Frost Burn”) may feel jarring on first listen as they overpower the elegance of the vocals and less grating instrumentation, ultimately they work. There’s enough of a balance between organic and processed production that everything falls into place, even if it takes a few listens before the puzzle becomes clear. With the tinkering pots-and-pans percussion of “Wave,” the radiator clicks of “Night Heat,” and more, there are plenty of interesting little components to be found within the six beautiful segments of form/a.
Pure and simple, this is an incredibly moving and memorable effort from Half Waif. It’s one of 2017’s best releases and will remain as such when the year comes to a close. My only real complaint is that it ends, but luckily you have the option to start it over again, enjoy it just as much (if not more), and maybe even discover more nuances weaved into the mix.
form/a will be out this Friday, February 24 through Cascine Records and can be pre-ordered now.
Half Waif tour dates:
February 21 – San Francisco, CA – Noise Pop Festival @ Swedish American Hall ~SOLO~
February 25 – Brooklyn, NY – Indie Pop Prom @ Brooklyn Bazaar ~SOLO~
March 3 – Purchase, NY – The Stood (SUNY Purchase) ~SOLO~
March 11 – Savannah, GA – Savannah Stopover Festival
March 12 – Tallahassee, FL – The Wilbury
March 14-18 – Austin, TX – SXSW
March 19 – Dallas, TX – Not So Fun Wknd @ Club Dada
March 22 – Cleveland, OH – Mahall’s Locker Room
March 23 – Lansing, MI – Mac’s
March 24 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen
March 25 – Columbus, OH – Double Happiness
March 26 – Pittsburgh, PA – Smiling Moose
March 27 – Toronto, Canada – Smiling Buddha
March 28 – Montreal, Canada – La Vitrola
March 29 – Burlington, VT – Arts Riot
March 31 – Baltimore, MD – Joe Squared
April 1 – Richmond, VA – Strange Matter
April 2 – Raleigh, NC – King’s
April 3 – Washington, DC – DC9
April 5 – Boston, MA – Middle East Upstairs
April 6 – Brooklyn, NY – Silent Barn
April 7 – Philadelphia, PA – Everybody Hits