Holly Hebe has graced these pages a few times – her collaboration with Ivoris and Zhuli in the track ‘Supervillain‘ earlier this year was a pop delight, and her single last year ‘I Tried to Give You Ways To Love Me‘ was a dreamy reverie. Hebe has now released her debut EP ‘Party Mix’, and its is a radiant joy.
Hebe hails from the Mornington Peninsular near Melbourne, and her production and songwriting prowess belies the fact that she is only twenty years old. This collection of four shimmering electro pop tracks is like a repository of golden sunshine suffuse with a pop sensibility and melancholic joy. A bittersweet edge threads its way through the EP, creating songs of breathtaking beauty. The song titles contrast with the delivery and themes – the almost mundane EP title and the second track ‘Life of the Party’ hint at something that is ephemeral and vacuous – a sort Andrew W.K brutality – whereas the reality is something delicate, intelligent and impossibly beautiful.
‘Edith Street’ starts the EP with a gentle simmer – softly strumming guitars form a bare canvas on which Hebe’s velvet voice, gilded by harmonies, is aching as she sings I just love you so damned much its messing with my head. The overall effect is that of a warm cotton blanket, cosy and snuggly enveloping you, while Hebe softly and yet with a brutal honesty describes a convivial sense of bliss and contentment.
‘Life of The Party’ burst into the reverie with an enigmatic presence about it – Hebe’s vocals are flush with a sparkling burnish which creates a brilliant tension between the delivery and the misleadingly buoyant title. The gently pop simmers with an aquatic flow which breaks into a muscular beat with sky-scraping melodies. The production is crisp and cutting.
‘Plastic Chairs’ commences with a motorik beat and a synth riff etches across the sky with a exuberant refrain. Hebe’s vocals are again distant and observant – there is almost an Arctic chill to them – and filled with yearning and arching melodies. There is wide screen cinematic scope to the track: it’s bigger than the bright blue horizon in the Australian outback, briefly submerging underwater before bursting to the surface to the resolution.
The EP ends with the dreamy ‘hardpilltoswallow’ where Hebe’s vocals have the softness and range of Dusty Springfield, floating above tinkling pianos. Glorious layers of harmonies have a beautiful delicacy before the song momentarily segues into something more febrile and layered before a gentle return.
‘Party Mix’ is ironically titled – this EP is a gentle repose – open, vulnerable, studied and delicate. Hebe displays a nuanced songwriting that is honest as it is melodic, filled with melancholy and yearning, hopelessly romantic at times and worn out and tired at other times. It is a breathtaking debut.
Feature Photograph: Lux Newman