If you follow the new music world (which I imagine you do, since you’re reading this) you might have noticed that female-fronted indie pop is having quite the moment as of late, with the likes of Charli XCX, Icona Pop, Foxes, AlunaGeorge and a long list of etceteras all pushing the movement. What many of the artists that play around in this style have in common is that they’ve been treated with heavy post-production to make them shine – not surprising given their major-label placing. The result is a song that sounds incredibly slick, but sometimes at the cost of the vocals, which often lose a bit of organic soul. But what would happen if we took this same style and applied it to an independent artist with a booming, soulful voice? Thankfully it’s no longer a question, because we’ve got the answer in Halona King.
For her four-track, self-titled debut EP, King (real name not disclosed) has teamed up on production with Max Hershenow, a close friend that just so happens to be the “MR” in MS MR, another band doing their take on the style. What sets her apart is how natural things feel (sound) throughout the fifteen minutes of the EP. I mean, sure there’s reverb, echoes and the whole shebang, but the instrumentation strays from synthesizers and drum machines, opting instead for keyboards and (seemingly) real drums, as well as your standard guitars and bass.
As good as the instrumentation is, it’s the vocals that really do it for me. Halona King has got a big, booming voice that seems more fit for gospel or soul than for pop. On the stripped down “Monster in the Night” it’s really given a chance to shine, as she sings only over a piano. It’s also on this track that we get a glimpse of what caused her to begin the projects. She cites it’s a culmination of “bad whiskey, bad men, and more than a few bad dreams”, and that’s all present on this lovelorn song, particularly the latter in the lyrics.
“War Ground” presents the singer at her most upbeat. Supported by thunderous percussion and an omnipresent piano as main traits, it’s the song that’s most likely to grab people’s attention, thanks in no small part to her catchiest vocal delivery to date. The chorus is likely to bury itself in your brain after a couple of listens, only to return in the most surprising situations.
As a whole, though, King shows a fantastic knack for melody, even in the non-melodic instruments. In “Overgrown Hearts” the drums and bass – particularly the latter – really carry the song and, again, another stunning vocal delivery elevates it to another level. Even the more mellow “Fictional Fix” has a chorus that’s hard to shake once it has made its way into the listener’s system.
If the EP is any indication, Halona King is a name to keep in mind for the future, especially if indie pop queens continue to have the title they currently hold. Our recommendation is you download it (it’s available for free on her Bandcamp) and pass it around, because artists like this deserve the attention.