Review: Holly Humberstone – Falling Asleep At The Wheel

Credit: Phoebe Fox

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Apple Music just named her the newest “Up Next” artist, she sold out her first-ever headline gigs this fall, and there have already been countless 5-star reviews of this flawless debut EP. She already has over 20 million streams on Spotify and NY Times praised her music as, “a reminder of how expertly crafted pop works.” Holly Humberstone is a breakout star’s name to remember. 

The 20-year old musician from the English countryside wears her heart on her sleeve in her first collection of songs. In a recent interview she said that her lyrics, “have to be lyrics that someone would get tattooed on their skin for life.” Humberstone epitomizes turning life experiences (good and bad) into art through her music. Her indie-pop sound is reminiscent of the detailed storytelling through dreamy melodies of Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Eilish, and Lorde. Holly’s voice is lovely and soft, yet strong and demands attention. She recorded this eagerly anticipated EP with friend and producer, Rob Milton, in the old and withering house she has grown up in – what resulted is a 6-piece EP full of pop savvy tracks that hold deep emotional scars. Get your tissues ready for this one. 

There are certain songs that just leave you a puddle on the floor. The opening track, “Deep End” is the stand out heart string tugger. She tells the story of her sister’s depression in the chorus when she sings, “I’ll be your medicine if you need me / Give you reason to get out of bed / Sister I’m trying to hold off the lighting / And help you escape from your head.” The glittering percussion and comforting lyrics are incredibly sad, yet oh-so beautiful. Released early this year, the music video depicts a dark image of Holly dripping wet in the cold, then slowly pans out to reveal her sisters holding the hoses over her at the very end.

With delicate keyboards and a pounding beat, the title track showcases her pristine vocals and knowing exactly who she is in the music she is making. “Falling Asleep At The Wheel” is the internal battle of losing momentum and the self-sabotaging emotions in a relationship. The wonky sonics and striking lyrics in this milestone track define Holly’s synth-pop sound. 

“Overkill” is a slow burn with thrilling and confusing feelings about falling for someone new. She struggles to confess her love, “Maybe this time I’ll say something / I’ve been feeling for awhile, out loud.” In this song, the guitar-driven instrumental and mixed drums perfectly complement her smooth-whispery voice. 

The mood turns darker on “Drop Dead” which she surprise-released only a few days before the EP drop date. The beat is barely there on this ambient song that examines the toxic relationships that you can’t stay away from, “Did you come around here just to start a fight? / Drop dead.” Her commanding voice and the melancholic piano make it fairly dramatic for a pop song. 

There is a glitchy pop beat throughout the refreshing, “Vanilla.” With the title meaning boring or uninteresting, her words are straight up and candid, “But the truth is, I have my best nights without you.” Then, we are left to ponder the rest of our lives throughout the piano ballad, “Livewire.” On the closing song of her first project she cries, “Life can’t always be one firework display / I give up, I look back on those days.” It is essentially about how nothing lasts forever. Her compelling voice backed by moody production carry us through these songs. 

Holly recently made her television debut on Jimmy Kimmel, performed at Glastonbury last year, and is gearing up for her sold out headline shows this November. When she toured Europe with Scottish legend Lewis Capaldi pre-lockdown, she performed on her own without a band in hopes of building her self-confidence and winning over a huge audience. The 20-year old Grantham-native has proven herself to be wise beyond her years and a force to be reckoned with.  

With an electric guitar strapped to her at all times, two braids framing her freckled face, and her heart on her sleeve, Holly Humberstone’s come-up should be made into a movie. In this EP, she pushes you out underneath a dark cloud in the middle of the night, then holds your hand to run through the thunderstorm together. This gut-wrenching collection of songs bares her heart and soul, and she does it all with strength and elegance. 

Holly Humberstone’s debut EP, Falling Asleep At The Wheel is out August 14 via Platoon. 

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