‘I Need to Start a Garden’ is a wistfully intimate record. Replicating the melancholic atmosphere found on ‘Untitled God Song’ from ‘Live from the Banana Stand, Vol. 3’, Haley Heynderickx rouses listeners with gentle lyrics and drowsy arrangements. Engaging this record evokes the uncanny sense that one is witnessing a private concert. Indeed, were it not for the lacking applause, one might suspect they were hearing a “live” album. The result of this organic production is palpable as Heynderickx seemingly manifests just out of reach, her tender lyrics assuming greater poignancy. Though not quite unpleasant, this psychic confrontation produces some discomfort; rather than inconspicuously listening in some detached manner, one feels nearly exposed by this stark familiarity.
Beyond the album’s personal vibe, ‘I Need to Start a Garden’ conjures vivid, dreamlike imagery in which listeners may lose themselves. ‘The Bug Collector’ auspiciously weds post-acid fantasy with all-encompassing care as Heynderickx alternates between nervously comedic verses (“And there’s a centipede / Naked in your bedroom / Oh and you swear to God / The fucker’s out to get you”) and a softly assuring refrain (“Oh and I digress / ‘Cause I must make you the perfect morning“). Elsewhere, the aforementioned, darkly weary ‘Untitled God Song’ ensnares listeners with Denzel Mendoza‘s trombone while Heynderickx croons, “Or maybe my god / Has thick hips and big lips / And the buttons she’s pressing / She speaks every language / Shift A, right B, Nintendo 63.”
Sonically, ‘I Need to Start a Garden’ traipses across generic boundaries with delight. ‘Worth It’ incorporates blackened surf alongside muted Americana before slowly building into a proto-grunge, Vaselines-esque bridge; rather than merely returning to subtle folk inflections, Heynderickx utilizes the song’s refractory period to draw attention to her voice as she emphatically projects over swelling guitars and marching drums. Given that the track occupies little more than one-fourth of the record’s thirty minutes, this winding progression is, well, worth it. Follow-up tune ‘Show You a Body’ introduces Lily Breshears chilling piano-playing while Tim Sweene‘s upright bass evokes visions of a “DIY” orchestra. Without feeling disjointed, Heynderickx later pivots into the relatively upbeat, hazily doo-woppy standout ‘Ooh Sha La La,’ emphatically delivering the album’s eponymous line in a condensed moment of unfettered emotion.
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Haley Heynderickx‘s full-length debut is not an absolutely impeccable release; namely, beyond ‘Worth It’ and opener ‘No Face’, there is little temporal variety among these songs, effectively depriving the album of any discernible arc. Despite this individual preference, there is little to critique when one approaches ‘I Need to Start on a Garden’ on its own terms. Consisting of eight tracks, this record is manifestly primed to dazzle live audiences in its entirety – an uncommon luxury for any fan. Moreover, one might ultimately appreciate the album’s truncated length considering that Heynderickx effortlessly inspires myriad feelings throughout the work. Indeed, Heynderickx herself may have felt it would be better to leave audiences moved and yearning for more than to overstay her welcome. Regardless, with its subtly radiant psychedelia, ‘I Need to Start a Garden’ figures to be a dark horse contender for numerous year-end lists and is bound to make ripples among underground circles.
‘I Need to Start a Garden’ is out now via Mama Bird Recording Co.