Nandi Rose Plunkett has been recording as Half Waif since at least 2012, the date of her earliest Bandcamp release. A lot of that music has been promising, rewarding, even downright great. We’ve spotlighted quite a bit of it. But wow, with Lavender she’s really doing the thing. This album is what her whole career has been building to.
Plunkett’s music with this project has always been a mix of pop, experimental electronics, and classical composition. On Lavender that combination finds its apotheosis. The album roams a unique sonic territory adjacent to St. Vincent and solo Thom Yorke, one that finds space for the emotive piano ballad “Back In Brooklyn,” the stately pop-rocker “Keep It Out,” and the skittering digital power move “Torches.” She has learned to spin gorgeous complexities in a musical language of her own making.
These stunning backdrops elevate the stories Plunkett tells throughout the album, stories of familial longing exacerbated by the isolation of life the road. “Lavender Burning,” the marvelous opening track, finds Plunkett alternately flashing back to her grandmother’s home in England and admitting, “I miss New York, and that’s the loneliest feeling.” By the end, on “Ocean Scope,” she laments, “On the road to nowhere/ I can’t bear another ocean/ In the grand scope of things, I know I’m drowning.”
In between she wrestles with the impossibility of romantic love, pines for her mother’s embrace, and artfully articulates the way 21st century life can magnify timeless human struggles. It’s compelling stuff, and it nearly parallels the way Lavender’s songs merge ancient and modern sounds into something recognizable yet unmistakably Plunkett’s own.
As of today, what’s hers is yours: You can stream Lavender at NPR ahead of its release next week.
Lavender is out 4/27 on Cascine. Pre-order it here.