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Heldinky – Miles To Go Before I Sleep

Turquoise Coal

Heldinky - Miles To Go Before I SleepHeldinky‘s Miles To Go Before I Sleep intrigued me — anything referencing Robert Frost has to be worth my time, right? And an influence list boasting the likes of Tim Buckley, Elizabeth Frazer, Annette Peacock and Kate Bush was enough bait to get me to put my hand up to hear the debut LP from the Welsh trio.

The vinyl I received in the mail all the way from Ynys Môn (Anglesey) is very beautiful. The sleeve artwork is all abstract blues and greys on a white background, a painting by the artist Peter Hollaway. Simple yet attractive, the vinyl itself gratifyingly heavy. On first listen I am drawn to say that Heldinky are a very accomplished live band, and this recording exemplifies the allure of that raw-edged late night sultriness that a group playing in a small venue can bring, and I am charmed by the soft, bluesy, pared-down sound, all rounded out with lots of nice hooky guitar.

Yet on further listens I find myself missing something. The music is lovely, no doubts there. The vocal is warm, Helena Palombo’s voice has a rich tone and a versatility to it that suits both the slower blues licks of the opening “The River” and the harder-driving “Take me Down and Say What You Say”, perhaps drawing worthy comparisons to PJ Harvey’s early work. But I find myself searching in vain for the lyrical poetry alluded to in that Robert Frost-inspired title. It is a shame, because there are some stand-out tracks on this record, namely “Time” and “Swordfish”, but I find, in spite of the breathy lushness of Palombo’s voice, I am distanced from the sentiment of the songs in a way I find misses the point for me.

Any review can only be a personal response. And that means that I find myself acknowledging that this is a band with a lot of talent and a lot of energy, who have clearly earned their stripes. But when I hear country-inspired blues I find myself hankering for PJ Harvey or Will Oldham-levels of commitment to narrative songwriting, and in this it falls somewhat flat. This is perhaps compounded by the final track on the album — a gorgeous cover of Be Bop Deluxe’s “Lovers are Mortal” — which only serves to highlight the comparative lack of maturity in the lyrics on the rest of the record.

I really like Heldinky’s sound; husky and expansive and full of promise. There are some lovely moments on this record and they are clearly a band with a lot of potential. But overall the LP actually puts me in mind of another poem by Robert Frost “Fireflies in the Garden”. On Miles To Go Before I Sleep Heldinky “Achieve at times a very star-like start.” But, like the fireflies of the poem, I rather fear, for me at least, “they can’t sustain the part”; or perhaps they’re not quite there yet.

-Arwen Xaverine-

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1 comment to Heldinky – Miles To Go Before I Sleep

  • Ad Thomas

    As a fan of this album I found this review very disappointing and also confusing.

    Although the writer acknowledges that the band’s music is “lovely”, with “the allure of that raw edged late night sultriness” she dismisses all this at the end because she finds some of the lyrics not to her taste.

    I actually think you do the lyricist a huge disservice. Her words do not just serve to paint a picture. The sounds of the words are as important, as is the timing of the words, towards creating the feel of the songs. For example, The River’s simplistic repetition of a phrase conjures up a hypnotic feel, reflected in the music.

    For those who want an alternative (and what I consider a more accurate) review check out this link:


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