The Walls Are Way Too Thin by Holly Humberstone
19 Nov 2021
We are all guilty of judging books by their covers. We see a morose, hunch backed teen dressed all in black with an upside down crucifix hanging from their neck and we immediately assume we know the only thing that could possibly be coming out of their earphones is demonic screams and thrashing guitars. It makes me wonder, when people see this middle aged, conservatively dressed white guy strolling through the City of London could any of them guess I am listening to Holly Humberstone's latest EP The Walls Are Way Too Thin? Well guess what? I am.
Holly Humberstone has spent the majority of her career to date in lockdown but that hasn’t stopped her synth based pop ballads from building her an ever growing online fanbase from all corners of the globe. Now that the world is desperately trying to get back to normal Holly is wasting no time in progressing further and has marked the next stage in her journey with this latest EP.
Haunted House introduces this record and in my opinion that’s a real shame. A derivative drop in the ocean that is 2021’s ambient, piano backed, female singer songwriter ballads. Luckily it’s not too long but it does set an unnecessary tone as it is fair to say this is not a reflection of the rest of this record. In this age of streaming, speed clicking and insatiable digital appetites I wonder how many listeners will miss the rest of this record because the first track doesn’t grab them. The following title track thankfully turns things right around. The bouncy synth beat emulates a muted guitar riff and drums are perfectly judged. I can’t help but notice the similarities to Katie Pruitt but it doesn’t mar the listening experience and if anything that's a compliment. This is a great song in all aspects of Hollys voice and the production. Please Don’t Leave Just Yet is another success with slightly subtler production but beautifully accented backing vocals and sporadic electronic voice samples. Humberstone’s voice is layered at just the right times to add depth and variety. I find that when artists like this try to make the lyrics young and relatable they often do so at the expense of the quality and maturity of the song. She has masterfully avoided this trap and even when using expletives and references to, for example, her partner spending all their time on the internet, the track still feels polished and thought through.
The highlight of the record is cleverly positioned as the fifth and penultimate track so the mood builds up to it. Scarlett is a faster paced pop tune with completely inspired production that blows up and holds back at all the right times. In the later chorus’ the vocal effects on the backing vocals merge them seamlessly with the river of synth strings. The composition is smart, the vocal performance is fantastic and I hope this becomes a signature sound for Holly. This was the fourth single off the EP prior to it's release and it really has all the makings of a radio hit. I'm still getting those Katie Pruitt vibes though. I can't be the only one noticing this! Surely! It's not helped by the closing tracks acoustic guitar and slight soft country undertones. This is a fairly underwhelming effort but works as a close to the record. Its nice to see the sequencing of even a six track EP has been considered.
Holly Humberstone is a remarkable new talent and this latest release is a first class piece of work. The only notable downside is that it is not a full length album. Whether it is the uplifting production, the down to earth lyrics or the way that Humberstone's voice perfectly bounces off the beat in the more up tempo tunes, most listeners will find something to love. This record is an all round success and I can't wait for more. I have been critical at times but I don't want you to come away thinking that I regard this record as anything less than one of the best releases of the year. Take a listen and give me your thoughts.