National Music Reviews
Paint My Bedroom Black
Holly Humberstone = Griff x Gracie Abrams
English artist Holly Humberstone had a difficult task ahead of the release of her debut album Paint My Bedroom Black. It’s a challenge that many of her musical peers in the same Gen Z age group such as Gracie Abrams and Conan Gray have also faced: releasing their first album after the uber-successful EPs and singles that immediately skyrocketed them to popularity.
For Humberstone, her patent emo-pop-goth vibes flourished in her 2021 EP The Walls Are Way Too Thin, particularly in the upbeat track “Scarlett,” which is infused with catchy tracks and screamable lyrics that get stuck in the listener’s head. That same magic is present throughout the 13 tracks of Paint My Bedroom Black—a brilliant collection of songs that cement Humberstone’s reputation for introspective songwriting, but is also unexpected enough to hint at where she can go in the future.
The title track and album opener “Paint My Bedroom Black” is an uplifting, and in certain light, even positive song. It’s fair to say after songs such as “Deep End,” Humberstone is known for her ability to tap into deeper, heart-wrenching lyricism. But this bold opening track embodies a certain weightlessness similar to that of Taylor Swift’s “Clean.”
“Finally, I’m living, not surviving,” Humberstone croons. She sings about “bottling up” a feeling, yet she does exactly that with the song, subtly paying ode to the rejuvenating power of music.
Humberstone’s ability to write lyrics that cut straight to the core is what has made her my favorite new artist discovery of 2023. There are two bright standouts on the album that exemplify this for me. “Cocoon” is a witty track that plays on the idea of coming out of your cocoon but utilizes the word as a verb instead of a noun. A simple chorus of “I’m going through something” is the backbone of the song, and accompanying verses filled with lines like, “Now I’ve become a taxidermy version of myself” fill it out beautifully.
“Flatlining” is a production powerhouse, something you would hear in the background of a movie scene. Picture a girl crying in the thrall of a packed club, mascara tears trailing down her cheeks, flashing lights all around, camera focused on her. The beat drops, and the scene takes off—that’s the picture Holly brings to life. Like the first track on the album, “Flatlining” is a pleasant surprise, and perhaps more than any other song, the title gives away exactly what the song is about—knowing that a relationship or friendship is on the brink of extinction.
The album in its entirety is also a production masterpiece. “Into Your Room” has a hint of ‘80s nostalgia flair, fit with a boombox lyric and a big, bold drumline. There are also touches of softness in tracks like “Kissing in Swimming Pools” (sonically) and “Ghost Me” (emotionally), which capture the haunting feeling of knowing someone is ghosting you but being helpless to do anything about it.
Tracks “Antichrist” and “Lauren” both have the same gothic feel to them, with Humberstone adominishing herself and her habits in different ways. In “Lauren” she sings, “Put my fist through the wall cause I’ve been falling too short” and also relents, “In my defense, you should never trust a girl who sleeps on the floor and has a 1,000 unread messages.”
Her introspective tendencies reflect inward as much as they do outward. In fact, the entirety of the album has a central theme of going through something and trying to nail that feeling into words. It’s what marks an excellent songwriter: the ability to do that for yourself and your listeners, putting emotions into words when it seems impossible to capture.
“Superbloodmoon” with indie artist d4vd is the sole feature on the album, and his voice adds the perfect edge and smoothness to the stripped-down song. The album fittingly ends with fan favorite “Room Service.”
Paint My Bedroom Black is an album from someone who is self-assured, creative and most of all a lover of music. Holly Humberstone is well aware of the weight and solace music can provide. Her ability to tap into this in such an easy and universal way is her crowning jewel. –Palak Jayswal
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