Halflight - Pick Me

Bill Cummings 20/10/2005

Rating: 3/5

Pick me is the new mini album offering from Cardiff based Halflight who first emerged last year with the outstanding EP “Subside” If you've never encountered them before they are fronted by the talented vocals and guitars of Sarah Howell's (ex Jylt) and backed by guitarist Richard Llewellyn and cellist Emma Bryden with drummer Avvon Chambers.

Opening track “Smiles and Air” is gorgeous; its tumbling vocal harmonies and a more upbeat melodic guitar line are backed by elegant cellos and Sarah's clear insistent vocals drive this song along. (“Through daylight to dim light/Through all that I know/ We tumble from reckless heights/Now you're always on your own.”)

Meanwhile “Paper Cuts” is bare, dark and emotionally haunting. This track contains the ghosts of Kristin Hersh: the melody touching then brooding, the sparse clicking backing beat adds starkness to the powerful lyrics. (Paper cuts and we will bleed/He won't remember who I am/ One thing you can count on). What's so impressive is that this track manages to sound fresh in a sea of female singer songwriters - that is some feat.

The title track, builds pleasingly into a neat little indie folk-rock track. Whilst Sarah's lyrics are bitter, clawing and at times desperate, one suspects for affection from a confusing relationship. (“I have waited such a long time/Trying to make this matter/Trying to get persistence to pay off until we're cynical and shattered.”) Its reminiscent in part of the angst-ridden early work of Alanis Morrisette or the tumbling piano pop of Tori Amos. It's impressive that Halflight are starting to stretch their sound into more up-tempo pop areas.

Elsewhere “Mari” is kind of typical of what we have come to expect from Halflight - quality folk balladry delivered with elegance, the lyrics do descend into relationship cliché on occasion but it's pulled round by the sheer heart on display. “Loveworn” is slow, short, dark and longing, like drinking mulled wine into you're veins on a winter's evening. And the closer, aptly titled “The Ending” is another multi-harmonic, grasping, 'seize-the-moment' style piece of balladry (“I could prove you wrong/ But why do I need to/ We're not here that long to let pride defeat you.”)

One criticism I have of the “Pick Me” mini album: is that sometimes the sheen of production here takes away from the rawness and emotional power Halflight are capable of, there isn't any need to be too commercial at this stage. But on the whole, another quality release from Halflight. They are branching out into pleasing areas and it's really refreshing to hear a Welsh band with a genuine sense of musical honesty.