By Joseph Purcell
Someone New is a cathartic expulsion of pain and anguish that introduces us to a spectacular talent
Upon the release of her 2018 release series, Altogether Unaccompanied, Montreal’s Helena Deland spoke of her reluctance to create a typical record. Giving the different songs their own opportunity to breath and ensnare the listener was the theory. Despite this initial hesitation to put her music into a long player, we’re finally getting one in the form of the immaculate and beguiling, Someone New. Centred on the tumultuous highs and lows associated with romantic opportunity and railing against the belief of a female expiry date for such opportunities, Deland has crafted a breathtaking record. Combining the signature fragility of her early folk tracks with delicately placed pop arrangements, and an evocatively haunting lyrical refrain throughout. The intertwining styles create meandering path on the voyage into the world of Deland, with each fork in the road as captivating as the last.
Opening amid a calm, creeping soundscape, Deland describes an internal strife, stuck inside the thoughts of her own mind ‘I’d never get sick of the patterns of my mind/But I am stuck, I am stuck’. The track intensifies as Deland’s exasperation breaks through as if tortured by the thoughts of others, and the expectations placed on her by society. Finally snapping, she sings ‘And I will give myself a fucking break’. Railing against archaic tropes before she finds her peace, ‘Kissing someone new, who tells me something pretty, so that I, too, can feel like someone new’.
Perhaps the album’s finest point comes on the tumultuous Dog. Combining the spark of Angel Olsen with the lyrical sharpness of Cat Power on a tale of heartbreak and abuse, Deland’s charged yet fragile vocal reflects ‘I hate to be your dog’. The imagery of the lyrics conjure a scene of control and belittlement, delivered with resignation, ‘I hate to be your dog, but I’ve got everything to gain from your hand on my head/ I’m about to be trained’. The track encapsulates the theme of her unrequited, yet complicated love that emanates throughout the record, with each track an internal battle for her to decide what she will accept.
Truth Nugget continues in this vein. Her cries for any sort of attention or acknowledgement ignored, her partner simply pre-occupied with their own issues. Seven Hours is a delicate moment of reflective solitude, stripped back and allowed to float. Conversely, Pale is a whirling vortex of hazy Beach House inspired fog. The otherworldly feel of The Walk Home, is an instrumental collection of unusual sonic effects married together with an exciting yet unsettling quality.
The album feels like a cathartic exercise for Deland. Her time to expel the experiences of the past and begin afresh, with new lease of life, as someone new. Thankfully she overcame her reluctance to release her music as full record, as on this debut effort she has given us one of 2020’s standout collections.
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