Holly Humberstone’s “Work In Progress” — an aptly titled EP

For fans of: (obviously) Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Eilish (obviously)

Rating: 6/10

Holly Humberstone is an English singer-songwriter who recently released a brief EP entitled “Work In Progress.” While the EP is easy on the ears, it’s pretty clear that Humberstone has a lot of work to do in terms of distinguishing herself from her contemporaries.

The two main  influences I can see in this EP are Phoebe Bridgers and early Billie Eilish. Both of these artists are great and have made music I love, but if I want to listen to them, I would just put on one of their albums. This is some pretty average alt-pop that is well-produced and well-performed enough, but feels so derivative that it’s almost pointless to talk about. The opening track “Dive” sounds so vocally similar to Eilish that I almost did a double take, and “Down Swinging” feels like a synthpop reimagination of a song from Bridgers’ album “Punisher”. It’s not bad at all, but again, is there really a point in recommending it? I suppose if one is a huge fan of this sound and can’t get enough of it, they would enjoy it. However, I’ll probably stick to the original, superior material.

Dermot Kennedy’s “I’ve told the trees everything” exemplifies the current lack of interesting pop ballads

For fans of: Noah Centineo’s acting

Rating: 4/10

I was intrigued by the album art of Dermot Kennedy’s “I’ve told the trees everything,” which depicts a beautiful scene with a few deer standing in blue moonlight in front of a cozy-looking house, with some warm lights shining through the windows. Sadly, the actual music fails to recreate the lovely feelings the album cover shows, instead resorting to more of the bland pop balladry that is in abundance right now.

I feel like for every decent pop ballad to gain attention, such as Joji’s “Glimpse of Us,” there are a million more boardroom-developed “singer-songwriters” who tout their own genuine nature and personal pain, and yet make the most wallpaper-sounding music with melodramatic vocals and flavorless instrumental palettes. Lewis Capaldi, Benson Boone, and, to an extent, Ed Sheeran, are all some of the bigger players in this group, with every song being emotional wailing over sterile piano or repetitive guitar chords. That’s not to say that a simple, well-written ballad can’t be great; there are thousands of amazing ballads that are bare-bones and about a common subject, but the aforementioned artists as well as Dermot Kennedy lack the vocal chops or interesting lyrical content to be worth any attention.

This EP is listenable for the most part — although the pitched-up vocals and vacuous trap percussion of “Lessons” make that particular song obnoxious — offers nothing new, nor even an interesting recreation of something old. Rather, this is music made for bad Netflix rom-coms, for a contrived emotional moment, that feels utterly lifeless outside of that context. Kennedy’s lyrics are dime-a-dozen, his vocals could easily belong to any other sad-boy breakup singer, and his instrumentals are nothing to take home to your parents. It’s not awful, it’s not unlistenable, but it’s just more of the same gray slop that the music industry pumps out every year. Listen to Kate Bush, Sufjan Stevens, Laura Marling — any of these artists have made simple songs that evoke emotion without feeling like a waiting room.

I don’t have much to say about Flo Milli’s “Fine Ho, Stay”

For fans of: Mainstream drivel (pretentiously sips tea)

Rating: 5/10

Flo Milli’s “Fine Ho, Stay” is a perfectly passable rap album. It’s got some  smoothly-sung R&B-leaning songs, some more aggressively delivered cuts, and a few features, most notably SZA and Cardi B on “Never Lose Me,” both of whom perform decently enough. 

The album is listenable, but it’s got very little to separate it from the scores of similar-sounding albums. The hard tracks don’t go hard enough, the smooth tracks aren’t smooth enough, and there’s not much to take away from the album overall. If you’re a fan of radio rap and that’s your only exposure to the genre, you might like this. However, as someone who wants a bit more standout elements in his hip-hop, this is just a shrug for me.

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