Half Waif – ‘The Caretaker’ album review

Half Waif The Caretaker album 2020 Anti Records

Half Waif follows up 2018’s ‘Lavender’ with ‘The Caretaker’, a record that finds Nandi Rose opening up her heart and sharing her innermost thoughts as she ponders the importance and impact of isolation and connection.

There’s a slow Warpaint feel to the introduction of album opener ‘Clouds Rest’ with its words about ‘going nowhere fast now’ and ‘running up that hill, calm and focused’. This is soon joined by electronic beats that continue through to ‘Siren’ – another tender song with poignantly pained lyrics: ‘Your pain is mine to know, let me again’. ‘Ordinary Talk’ has a more experimental edge, reminding us of Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’ as Nandi reveals ‘I’ve got places in my mind that I’ll never find if you’re holding my hand, like you always do’. It’s a song that shows how you should take responsibility for your actions while never being afraid to rely on the kindness of others.

There’s a similar message running through ‘My Best Self’, a powerful and heartfelt song featuring a combination of Anohni-style piano meldies, choral backing and intense Bat for Lashes-esque atmospherics as Nandi pleads with the song’s subject to ‘be the one you want to be’ and reveals ‘I found myself thinking I’m not going to disappoint you’. ‘In August’ has an optimistic bent in its sound but the words – touching upon the changing of the seasons, one of the consistent themes of the record – are emotionally raw: ‘I have left your friendship, what does that say about me?’; ‘You’ve broken your promise, what does that say about you?’.

The slow-burning ‘Blinking Light’ brings strings to the forefront while ‘Brace’ is a reflective ballad that reminded us of The National’s ‘I Am Easy to Find’ album. ‘Generation’ might just be the most personal piece on this record as Nandi shares her thoughts on growing older gracefully and how it’s important to become a better person – for yourself as much as others: ‘I’m bidding goodbye to my 29th year and a body that’s full of thorns’; ‘The rumours are true. I’m changing my name although I remain close to my kin’. ‘Window Place’ wraps up the album with a gently distorted sound close to St. Vincent’s quieter moments and dreamy metaphors about finding your place in life: ‘I can’t ever leave the building but it’s home all the same’.

Filled with subtly powerful moments and an absorbing electronica undercurrent, Half Waif’s ‘The Caretaker’ is an album all about looking out for yourself and others.

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