Portland-based musician Haley Heynderickx’s debut album “I Need to Start a Garden,” released in March 2018 under Mama Bird Recording Company, has recently garnered more attention, including mine, via TikTok recently when track two, “The Bug Collector,” experienced some virality.
This indie folk album explores self-doubt, faith, love, and gardens with a Portland sound and influences ranging from jazz to the folk music of the 1960s and ’70s. Heynderickx’s religious upbringing leaks into some of the tracks, most notably in “Untitled God Song,” which explores her interpretation of God.
“I Need to Start a Garden” begins with the stripped down and hauntingly beautiful “No Face.” Piano, horns, and strings entwine with Heynderickx’s vocals as the album continues, accompanying Heynderickx’s always-present acoustic and electric guitars. The finger-style rifts in “The Bug Collector” are captivating and speak to Heynderickx’s guitar skills.
Heynderickx’s voice is filled with emotion in “Jo,” especially when she sings, “You are alone, your kindness the sweetest that I’ve ever known.” Heynderickx’s lyrics explore self-doubt, faith, gardens, reincarnated bugs, and a variety of bees – themes that all pose questions Heynderickx may not know the answer to herself. In “Worth it,” she sings, “Maybe I’ve been worthless / maybe I’ve been worth it.”
The sweeping piano in “Show You a Body” complements Heynderickx’s vocals, and the lyrics evoke the sense of honesty she so often presents, like when she sings, “I am humbled by breaking down.”
Heynderickx explores her interpretation of God, bringing the figure down to earth by describing sunsets as, “[God] forgetting her headlights are on” and describing God as having “a trot in her walk.”
Heynderickx also proves that her music can have depth in even her least serious songs. “Oom Sha La La” is a rather unserious but undeniably catchy song, in which the chorus is little more than the words “Oom Sha La La.” Although the chorus is goofy, the lyrics express anxiety and self-doubt in the opening verse, which includes, “I’ve barely been to college / And I’ve been doubtful of all that I have dreamed of / The brink of my existence essentially is a comedy.”
The lyrics have a relatability that is striking. The song further adds meaning in its later half with the lyrics “If you don’t go outside / Well nothing going to happen / She’ll never write her number on a crumbled-up napkin / She’ll never be your ego / Shell never be your bandit / Shell never get to eat you like your hearts a pomegranate,” which express the need to explore the offerings of life instead of focusing on the negative.
The album closes with the touching “Drinking Song” that explores life after death and how Heynderickx believes that “Everyone is singing along / The good and the bass and the gone.”
The album is an incredible debut, and at only 30 minuets long I would recommend listening to the album as a whole. That said, “Drinking Song,” “Untitled God Song,” and “Oom Sha La” are standouts. Heynderickx is currently touring in the US.
Guest Review by Ella Baker