Half Waif’s “Mythopoetics” Carries Empowered Truths in Curated Tales

Image subject to copyright. Anti Records 2021

At the onset of Half Waif’s latest album, Mythopoetics, you’re immediately thrown into the dignified, trying world of Nandi Rose. Agreeing with the title’s reference to making myths, Mythopoetics creates distance between traumatic moments through sonic beauty. Where artists choose to remain in the space of a paralyzing loss, Rose chooses to follow her loss with action — her dedication to movement shows across each track. Intimacy isn’t something to fear within each idea, but an idea to be embraced in all of its parts, including the unknowing. Aligned with her previous tropes of maintaining a sense of security on Caretaker (2020) and working towards a trustworthy relationship on Lavender (2018), Mythopoetics considers a series of pivotal, heart-wrenching moments and stands as Rose’s strongest work yet.

“Swimmer” prefaces the album: a series of incisive writing driven by pounding synth kicks and snares. In this soundscape, you witness the evolution of a one-sided love unconcerned with reciprocation. The track is sure of its power and owns its run time, taking each synth and developing them into an arpeggiating unity in a warm, pop fashion.

To blend Rose’s vocal scale with electronica works to display how mature she’s grown as an artist since her 202 release, “Horse Racing” upgrades this blend and maintains the album’s productive peak with a chillwave loop that moves with the drums instead of directing them in the background. “The Apartment” also doubles down on this pop-adjacent style as a ballad that predicts a separation along an clattering synth roll.

To avoid getting carried away with synth-pop conventions, Rose remains aware of her strength as a writer; she knows when to provide more context for ideas and when to let them roam free. Tracks “Sourdough” and the album’s first single, “Orange Blossoms”, feature subtle key inflections behind each lyric, opening the space for clarity. Of the lyrics in “Orange Blossoms” the chorus features a project-defining quatrain: “I don’t wanna be here / How am I supposed to be healed / Everybody goes home / And the way there is not clear”. As fun and direct as the album stands in the pop genre, Mythopoetics is a concentrated stream of vulnerability.

Half Waif is bound to receive comparison to indie-pop artist, Mistki, for their shared appreciation for grand soundscapes of emotion. “Midnight Asks” nearly resembles Mitski’s latest album, Be the Cowboy, in its attention to a personified ‘midnight’ prompting action in her daily life in each verse. To meet introspective writing with a pleasant sound is no easy feat, especially at Rose’s level. Unlike Mitski, however, Rose’s vocal range track-by-track permits a great layer of vulnerability.

Rose sought to go beyond technical performance on this album and express emotion outside of her classical training. Leading to recording, she had to choose between trained convention and being a pop singer: “I just wanted to see how far I could push that. I think I’ve pushed the pop thing as far as I want to go on this record, but it was a lot of fun”, she told New Noise Magazine in an interview. The album strikes as a sensitive exploration of vocal performance, wary of being pitchy at times. Rose admits to holding back on her previous albums in order to produce the perfect take. For Mythopoetics, Rose allowed a bit more leniency for herself:

“hopefully I’m not pitchy, but if I am, it’s in service to the emotion. […] I want to keep giving the voice some space to be itself and to not be so in control.”

Instead of wishing for a savior’s communication through her phone, Rose resolves that her beliefs go beyond comfort with insufficiency on “Sodium and Cigarettes”: “Wishing you would call up / Knowing what you’d say / But I believe in something more / Than what you’re telling me” The track rests appropriately on the album, closing out this chapter in the Rose’s life. Not only does the track transport the listener into an emotionally intense space, its resolution is doubly appropriate as the most decisive track, performed behind a grand piano and a stretching series of backing vocals.

For Half Waif, the next day appears hopeful and brighter than the last. Mythopoetics explores the bare psyche with enough bravery to leave no emotion behind. Rose considers loss, grief, and heartbreak with both digital instrumentation and soul; not as a method of hiding but as a genuine exercise in reflection. ‘Pop music’ begins to describe this exercise but fails to consider its warmth as an admirable meditation.

Listen to the album here.

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