Holly Humberstone in front of a cloudy background.

Holly Humberstone
Work in Progress EP

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Prolific. A word we can use to describe Humberstone’s approach to music. We’ve just got four new songs after the first album released just a few months ago. The new EP is a surprise, a good or not one, though?

Sometimes new music comes as a surprise 

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting new music from Holly Humberstone for a few months. Paint My Bedroom Black (2023) was released on 13th October 2023, and received well, some even calling it one of the best albums of the year. Now there’s Work in Progress.

Naturally, you’d expect the artist to tour and promote the album longer, be it accompanying Olivia Rodrigo, during a part of her US tour, or solo with a band. Good thinking but no, Holly took a different turn and instead of focusing on the album, sneaked in a few new pieces. We live in a digital world.

Work in Progress is everything but work in progress

If I mentioned the word prolific in the introduction, it certainly doesn’t have any negative connotations in Holly’s case.

Genre-wise, the EP is somewhere between soft pop and alt-rock. The sweet spot where I like Humberstone’s music the most. I appreciate her storytelling qualities above everything else.

When I discovered her music during her performance of ‘Scarlett‘ at the Glastonbury festival back in 2022, I was amazed at how simply she made things look, told the story of her friend so plainly it was not only easy to understand but, above all, relatable.

This amazement hasn’t disappeared.

The other reason why I love her music is the honesty and openness it comes with. Humberstone is known to put a lot more of her own actual experiences into the music. And it shows.

Storytelling. Right.

EPs, relationships, and… You’re such a fucking liar, Camille!

An EP, four songs, and a total playtime of about 15 minutes that are packed.

‘Dive’ is an amazing example of a person with baggage, “I’ve made enough mistakes / To fill up the oceans, babe / And when it rains, it pours”. As it often is, the baggage is seen as a problem but the storyteller stays strong, understanding what’s important, “And if you’re not down / That’s cool, don’t waste my time / Cause I’d rather watch Real Housewives”. Especially when the other party doesn’t, “’Cause it’s not like in the movies / You come over, try to fix me”.

The EP shows relationships in what they are – two people who are different, going through things or trying to catch up.

‘Dive’ could have the absolute best counterpart in the following song, ‘Work In Progress’, which covers a similar theme just told from the other side. Wishful thinking.

In the song, the artist expresses her willingness to accept her partner’s (and her own) imperfections. Maybe even growing personally together. 

It’s a powerful one. Listening to some parts of the lyrics, such as “Can you show me how you’re feeling / Through the speakers?” suggesting music does most of the talking feels so genuine. So does admitting both are not perfect, “No, I won’t freak out, no, I never doubted / We were both imperfect creatures”.

Before the last, another heavy, song hits, the EP disrupts the vibe with ‘Down Swinging’. A piece that makes the best of two worlds – not giving up easily, a song tradition present in our cultures ever since the first homo sapiens realised they can sing. A tradition that’s well represented by none other but Bruce Springsteen. The other world is any good pop song music-wise. The bottom line, the song has everything it needs to top the charts.

‘Easy Tiger’ closes the tracklist. It’s the slowest and also longest track on the EP only. A mostly acoustic guitar piece, later accompanied by the piano.

I like how Work in Progress slows down, to go deeper, more introspective, and personal.

Isolation and the pressure life sometimes brings are the main themes.

The theme of isolation is in the first stanza, “Well, I spent the whole of last week underwater / […] / Got a first-class view from right here in my fortress / Got a staring contest going with the moon”. Sometimes you just don’t want to go outside, see people, and be around them, “I get all dressed up, I get all dressed up for nothing”. Because they’re too much, “There’s a pep talk in the bathroom at the party / Between two dumb intoxicated girls / But I just wanna disappear completely tonight / Until I learn to function in this world”.

However, as all good storytellers know, nothing lasts forever, so when you hear Holly sing “Settle down now, easy tiger / It’ll all be over soon / Mm, put your feet up on the dashboard”, you know all it’ll eventually pass.

Wrapping thoughts on Work in Progress up

It’s a good, meditative, introspective, emotional, and relatable EP.

You may think the four songs are just an extension to the latest album but that may not be true and I’ll have to correct you. it’s not.

‘Down Swinging’ and ‘Easy Tiger’ are already in my Best of 2024 playlist.

Written by Vinklarek on

Petr 'Pete' Vinklárek writes mainly about music. Prior to entering the digital industry, he taught Translation Studies & British and American Cinema at a university. In his spare time, he hikes, listens to podcasts, watches films, and writes poetry. Petr studied the English Language and Literature at The University of Ostrava; his master’s thesis covered some aspects of Warren Zevon's work.

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