HEL! is the stage name of a dungaree-clad 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Liverpool, otherwise known as Helena MacCormack. Her debut EP, Romantically Stunted, released on 23rd April 2017, shares optimistic melodies with revealing and amusing lyrics to construct songs which are both catchy and thought-provoking.
The EP opens with ‘Confession’, a stripped back and simple song that challenges the social norms of fashion and the implications of wearing supposedly gendered garments. The echoing vocals compliment the delicate chords as Helena cheerfully sings “I like a man who wears a dress”, going on to explain “a dress is no more strange than a woman wearing trousers, which used to be so scandalous.” It’s a fair assessment: gender isn’t binary so why should our clothes be?
Lead song ‘Urban Legend’ tackles modern love with all its insecurities and torment, but its upbeat melodies provide an optimistic twist to traditional teenage heartbreak. Talking about the “push and pull of non-relationships” instantly makes this track relatable, reflecting on all those times you wondered whether your romance was real or whether it was all in your head.
Alternatively, ‘Leave Me Alone’, the song which provides this EP with its name, brings forth feelings of anxiety and an express desire to avoid social interaction, highlighting the consequences of this chosen isolation in a quirky and cheerful refrain. The track demonstrates a surprisingly common trait our generation has in confronting difficult emotions with an odd sense of humour in order to detach ourselves from the pain. Hey, it works.
‘New Year Baby’ returns to the delicate ukulele driven songs HEL! has perfected, almost sounding like a lullaby compared to the other tracks on this EP. It’s sweet and simple, describing a sense of love and hope without the usual dry humour.
Romantically Stunted concludes with ‘Bigmouth’, which follows the sincerity of ‘New Year Baby’, whilst filling the air with stronger vocals and crescending piano. It’s more of a ballad than a lullaby, pulling focus onto Helena’s beautiful voice and the range of emotions she can portray.
In what HEL! describes as “an EP of songs about real and fictional love”, Romantically Stunted explores adolescence in the 21st century, challenging social norms and personal battles through cheery choruses that’ll loop around your mind for days. Helena has created a collection of songs which are instantly relatable, sharing her unique observations of modern society in a quirky, upbeat fashion. It’s certainly worth a listen.
The EP is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp. Check it out below: