Portland native Haley Heynderickx has persevered through a lot leading up to her debut album, I Need to Start a Garden. The biggest story surrounding her career prior to the record’s release was the musical struggles Haley was experiencing. Unable to find the right place for recording initially, Heynderickx took it upon herself to exchange money for studio time.
With a lot riding on the line, Heynderickx still couldn’t catch a break. A string of studio sessions filled with technical difficulties left the Portland native even more frustrated. Instead of giving up though, Heynderickx used the adversity as a motivator for her debut album, I Need to Start a Garden.
Without ever feeling elongated or overly-stuffed with needless information, Heynderickx effectively uses different layers in her instrumentation and lyrics, thus adding nuance to her performances.
This is not your typical alternative folk project. She calculates a different side to the genre that has never been truly tapped into before. There’s a level of unpredictably and volatility advertised throughout each of the eight tracks presented on her first effort.
While I’m always fascinated with the world of folk music, a lot of it can seem simplistic and uniform. Nonetheless, every once in a while, there’s a band like Fleet Foxes, or an artist like Heynderickx, who comes around and surprises listeners with versatility and skillfulness.
On I Need to Start a Garden, Heynderickx displays urgency and progressiveness. She’s not the same person by the end of the record. On the acoustic-driven “No Face,” the Portland native goes head-on with her insecurities, and challenges those who may criticize her for her unique look (Tell me what’s wrong here/is it the bridge of my nose? Or the backs of my skin?). It’s a powerful two minutes that lets people know that she means business.
Heynderickx takes a more metaphorical route for the rest of the record, specifically on “The Bug Collector” and “Oom Sha LaLa.” The latter even contains dark comedy, acting as a manner for Heynderickx to find the satire in life. She has a way of capturing listeners with her tiny idiosyncrasies that she uses for the production. On the former song, Heynderick experiments with a faint trombone, thus enhancing the emotion that was already present to begin with.
The impressive element about Heynderickx as a musician that separates herself from her contemporaries is the copious amount of strengths she possesses. While the layered instrumentation and her ability to captivate listeners with her fingerpicking style of guitar-play stands out the most, her vocal performance on “Jo” is just as remarkable. Her tone doesn’t sound fabricated or fictitious, but rather painful and genuine.
The same goes for the longest track on the record, “Worth It.” She’s more self-aware on this track compared to others, and her ability to switch up pacing on the song feels very natural and smooth.
It’s at this point in the project where Heynderickx starts to exorcise her past demons, especially on the intense, “Show You a Body.” Probably one of my favorite tracks of the entire year so far, the quick piano appearance is what really makes the song stick. Heynderickx has a knack for sprinkling little details throughout the project that enhance the creativity even more.
Her willingness to understand that everyone has flaws in this world really guides the music itself even further quality-wise. She adds a more retro feel to the final few tracks, specifically on, “Untitled God Song” and “Drinking Song.” The latter is a perfect end to a journey that started pessimistic.
Heynderickx proudly sings, “There’s a light at the end of a dock Sending green little postcards to a city I love so much/And the water makes sense of her laugh./And wrinkles the backs of my hands.” She’s sounds happy about the woman she’s turned out to be by the finale. It’s an adventure that many folk artists rarely take listeners on.
For those who want something fresh within this genre, Haley Heynderickx is the person to look out for. She has a certain level of creativity and readiness that puts her in tier all by herself. As bold as that sounds, i Need to Start a Garden balances subtle lyrics with compelling production for a thrilling ride about love and loss, and finding the meaning of life.