Half Waif has spent a half-decade communicating intense, hugely personal emotions.
A vehicle for Nandi Rose, she's used each passing project as a means to refine, finesse, and distill her overwhelming musicality.
New album 'Mythopoetics' might rank as her finest yet. Bold, engrossing, and at times out-right revelatory, it offers – says Clash writer Matt Mitchell – "37 minutes of filler-less songbird prayers, where Rose pulls down the zipper of her own lungs and writhes her inmost misery."
Out now, 'Mythopoetics' is an imposing document, one that can only be unravelled on multiple listens.
Clash spoke to Half Wait about her Foundations, the albums that truly made a difference during her songwriting evolution.
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Tori Amos – 'Little Earthquakes'
When I started to get serious about songwriting in middle school, my dad bought me a book of Tori Amos sheet music to learn on the piano. It was her greatest hits, and a lot of them were from 'Little Earthquakes'.
I love that this record contains both the classical-tinged ballad 'Winter' and the absolute banger 'Crucify'. The emotion behind her voice, and the strength of her delivery, was such a compass for me. I get compared to Kate Bush a lot, which is very flattering, but the truth is, I didn’t hear a Kate Bush record until more recently.
It was Tori from day one for me.
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Joni Mitchell – 'Blue'
Growing up, my family would gather at our cabin in Maine and sing songs together. My dad would play guitar, and we would cycle through our family folk songbook: The Band, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, and this one song called 'A Case Of You'. I didn’t even know who it was by at the time, I just loved that one.
Years later, when I was about 15 or 16, I finally heard 'Blue'. This album means so much to so many people, and I’m happy to join those ranks. I’ve since sung 'A Case Of You' at multiple family weddings and funerals – it’s a song that conveys all the grief and joy of being alive and being capable of loving.
I think a lot about a line I read in the Joni biography Reckless Daughter, where David Crosby told her after 'Blue' came out: “Joni! Save a little for yourself!” I love that she didn’t hold back her emotions. It gave me a kind of permission to do the same.
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Imogen Heap – 'Speak For Yourself'
This album sounds so of-its-era production-wise and yet it still strikes me as futuristic and forward-thinking. I wasn’t an OC watcher when 'Hide And Seek' was on it and went viral, so my connection with this album went deeper than that one (albeit amazing) song. I love the playfulness of the production and the way the melodies leap and bound across her vocal range. It’s just an utter delight to dive into these arrangements.
I recently found out that she listened to my last record 'The Caretaker' and I just about died.
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Radiohead – 'Kid A'
I associate this album so much with the winter I got my driver’s license. I would drive around the desolate New England streets and listen to this album, and the combination of sounds and textures just felt so visceral and vivid.
Clanging bells against a dirty drift of snow, modulating stacks of chords filling a gray slab of sky. How could a song as somber and achingly beautiful as 'How To Disappear Completely' not appeal to a moody teenaged songwriter?
This album feels like equal parts dream and nightmare and I love the intersection of that.
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Rockettothesky – 'Medea'
Rockettothesky was an early Jenny Hval project. A friend showed me 'Medea' right after we graduated college and I became totally obsessed.
This was a big record for me when I first started Half Waif. The blend of fairytale-like folk melodies with rich electro-acoustic instrumentation (I guess they call this folktronica?) really spoke to me, as did the mythical nature of the song titles and characters. And I love how she uses her voice, throwing it high like a weightless bubble of pure tone on one song and then shredding it into a gritty, nasal groan on another.
Jenny’s music always feels very free and strange and exciting.
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'Mythopoetics' is out now.
Photo Credit: Ali Cherkis
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