Review Summary: And I digress
'Drinking Song' feels as apt an opener as Fish Eyes
deserves. Despite the lonesomeness implicit in its title, the song acts as a sort of convergence of voices, each distinct in its own right. With little warning, basslines introduce themselves alongside urgent melodies, dancing with and about them, a melodious bubbling that hops, skips and jumps between cackling snare hits and confident guitar twangs. I will admit, however: it's difficult to look past the EP's sole "voice" (technically), gracious and full-hearted as it is; the first few listens feel in dedication (and awe) of the songwriter herself, whose name graces the cover. But the singer-songwriter shtick, tried and true as it is, feels overdone. In her KEXP interview, Heynderickx laments ever having to tour alone. And for good reason; as sparse as her songwriting is, her compositions beg for a cascade of greater instrumentation, to at once distract from and illuminate the centre. (At one point, a bandmate pulls out a trombone, and let me tell you: bliss.) The first of four songs, 'Drinking Song' is, therefore, the most befitting opener: because amidst well-strummed guitars and a well-tuned voice -- between bleak, personal confessions -- there lies an ode to comfort found in solitude (or death), a ubiquitous state of grief to which "everyone [sings] along,/ the good and the bad and the gone."
Then again, it would be remiss of me (dishonest even) to dismiss an entire category of musicians, ignoring what is real talent within the singer-songwriter realm. A great deal of the Fish Eyes
EP's charm lies solely in Heynderickx as a writer and performer. On highlight 'First I'm Sorry' (clunky title aside), she moans apologetically about her mistreatment of a past lover: each phrase in the first verse and hook is punctuated by a strained and haunting "I'm sorry," as though no apology could ever make up for the wrongdoing. The words would lose their meaning if each iteration didn't ring louder and truer with greater pain. Ultimately, however, Heynderickx seems most desperate to communicate a single thought: "please know I loved you," as though the song's sole aim was always to quell the lover's insecurities. I describe this moment not only because I think this kind of thoughtful passion deserves greater recognition (though certainly, it does), but because I think the most convincing songwriters are those that are able to trick the listener into believing their songs weren't packaged for consumption. With or without a band, it's not difficult to pinpoint Haley Heynderickx as an artist: in dedication to Dylan and influential folk artists alike, inspired by and neatly fitting into the Portland singer-songwriter tradition, a respect for the power of words, and simple excellence at what she does and what she's accomplished.