Portland singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx’s debut album, “I Need to Start a Garden” is a brief, reflective stroll through the vines of her layered identities set within a world of complex relationship dynamics. The album, released March 2 via Mama Bird Recording Co., looks inward and out, her resonant vocals waxing things of the natural world as symbols for her own negotiations with it. The barebones music, produced and mixed by Zak Kimball at Nomah Studios in Portland and featuring Lily Breshears (Shears) on keys and backing vocals, Denzel Mendoza on trombone, Phillip Rogers (Alexandra Savior) on drums and Tim Sweeney on upright bass, gives weight to her vocal nuances.
Opening track “No Face” is a naked and direct self-questioning of whether Heynderickx’s heritage as a Filipina American is an obstruction in someone’s interactions with her, “Face me, face me entirely / Tell me, tell me what’s wrong / Is it the bridge of my nose or my backs of my skin? / Is it the pull of my hips that you couldn’t let in? / Is it the bridge between worlds that makes you feel alone? / Well I wish that I had known …”
“The Bug” is a beautiful sonic dip into saving a partner from paranoia, co-dependency with mental illness at its best and worst. With alt-country riffs and thoughtful pauses and pivots, “Worth It” is a stirring quest for seeking validation, “Put me in a box and call me anything you want, boy. Put me in a line, put me in a line, put me in the morning, put my feelings into life / Maybe I, maybe I’ve been selfish all along. Maybe I, maybe I’ve been selfless. Maybe I, maybe I’ve been worthless. Maybe I, maybe I’ve been worth it.”
The upbeat “Oom Sha La La” is where Heynderickx breaks through her own self-doubts and feelings of listlessness, claiming space and finally screaming, “I need to start a garden!” as a metaphor for getting out in the world and creating a world outside of oneself.
Even though the album clocks in at just under 30 minutes, she’s created quite a world with it.
||| Watch: “Oom Sha La La”
||| Live: Haley Heynderickx and Vikesh Kapoor perform tonight at Segovia Hall at the Ace Hotel. Free with RSVP.
||| Stream: “I Need to Start a Garden” (full album)