Speaking with Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) during SXSW, On Point’s Meghna Chakrabarti declared that the “best indie rock out there today…[is] being made by women.” While Half Waif may not quite fit into the nebulous “indie” rock genre, Chakrabarti’s declaration certainly apply to Nandi Rose Plunkett‘s synth-pop outfit. Having opened for Mitski on tour earlier this year, Plunkett‘s dreamy Half Waif effortlessly captured audience members (like yours truly) who may have waited for the live experience to engage with their music. With ‘Lavender’, Half Waif’s sophomore album, Plunkett carves out a space for herself among this year’s most gripping artists.
Upon a first listen, ‘Lavender’ comes off as a sleepy, decent all-around effort. Thematically, ‘Lavender’ addresses loss in myriad forms; whether reflecting on her grandmother’s passing or the ethereal nature of touring, Plunkett wades into murky waters, but with a delivery that rivals Enya‘s ‘The Memory of Trees’ in its tenderness. Not quite as entrancing as Psychic Twin or as grandiose as Anna Meredith, but still evoking both, Half Waif builds cavernous spaces glittering with multilayered synths that would make Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith proud.
Lead single ‘Keep It Out’ gently plods along, blossoming from a Bon Iver-esque introduction to a shimmery, post-rock groove that will induce passionate, bittersweet dancing as Plunkett croons, “Watch me while I disengage /
You might even feel nice.” A dark, industrial beat characterizes follow-up track ‘Lilac House’ while the operatic ‘In the Evening’ conjures gothic pop vibrations with its layered vocals and stinging lyrics (“Don’t expect me to be happy to see / That you’re happier than me / I don’t owe you that“). Second-half gem ‘Back in Brooklyn’ sees Plunkett‘s voice drawing focus, its lush power and sadness recalling a grimmer Regina Spektor (“I called you up / When I got back / Where have you been? / Don’t ask me that“).
Aided by Adan Carlo (bass, guitar, and rapt stage presence) and Zack Levine (live drums), Plunkett‘s songs assume greater urgency, their live incarnations bathing listeners in liquid melancholy. The all-encompassing experience leaves one wholly moved, if not pleasantly drowsy. If ‘Lavender’ is less of a high-water mark and more of an encouragin development, then audiences should expect Half Waif‘s LP3 to contend for album of the year in 20–.
The full tracklist is as follows:
‘Lavender’ is out now via Cascine.