Photo Credit: Phoebe Fox
London musician Holly Humberstone released her first EP Falling Asleep at the Wheel in 2020 and has recently returned with a follow-up EP, The Walls are Way Too Thin. While the artist fits in comfortably with the current wave of deceptively-quiet-but-brutally-honest young female singer-songwriters, Humberstone still manages to carve a niche that is all her own.
The opening cut “Haunted House” starts with the artist poking almost shyly at the piano. However, this ends up being a sort of psyche-out after the song picks up in the last third, where the song bursts out of its shell and an overdubbed chorus appears (possibly to illustrate the residents of the “haunted house” of the title). The song is perfectly consistent yet still ends up covering a lot of ground for its length of two minutes and change.
Humberstone then gets to shaking things up a bit on the title track, which right away goes to the bouncy synth, as well as a chorus that clearly reveals the influence of Haim (which Humberstone has freely acknowledged). Lyrically, the song presents an interesting, unique, and discomforting scenario: specifically, the narrator is in the same house as another person who’s having relations of some kind with someone else (hence, “the walls are way too thin”). It’s unclear whether it’s meant to convey that the person being addressed is a lover who’s being unfaithful, or a roommate and/or platonic friend for whom she has feelings.
The theme of unrequited love is a bit more obvious in a few of the other songs. “Thursday” is one of them, but also explores the greater theme of the search for identity (“I thought maybe if I dyed my hair // I’d feel more independent // But it’s nothing like the picture on the box // now I regret it”). Humberstone is obviously concerned with the idea of how the way we try to relate to others ends up affecting the way we perceive ourselves. The beat on “Thursday” sounds a bit mechanical, almost like a metronome, but it ultimately works.
Mid-tempo “Please Don’t Leave Just Yet” employs a few standard but effective studio tricks, including the use of sped-up chipmunk-style vocals (but doesn’t overuse them, luckily). Most of the EP does have a similar raw-but-focused feel in the way it’s produced, similar to recent major works by Lorde or Billie Eilish (among others). “Scarlett” boasts a great synth break as well as what are probably the single cleverest lyrics on the EP: “We go together like British weather on the one day I made plans” (referring, obviously, to how much it rains in England).
The multi-layered “Friendly Fire”, with its jangly folk feel is the EP’s best song and a tight, leave-‘em-wanting-more finale. The theme presented by the lyrics may also be the most compelling on this release (“If I hurt you, it’s just friendly fire”), which is certainly saying something. Humberstone’s voice is slight but it’s also near-perfect for the material she’s put out so far, all of which presents her as an extremely promising songwriter. At just six tracks and twenty minutes, These Walls are Way Too Thin is way too short.