Make Up Your Mind: Haley Heyndrickx’s “I Need to Start a Garden”


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Haley Heyndrickx’s “I Need to Start a Garden” features honest vocals and complex instrumentation.

Sophia Kontos, Online Editor-in-Chief

Here’s what qualifies Online Editor-in-Chief Sophia Kontos to write about music: she can’t go 10 minutes without using Spotify, she devotedly follows NPR Music and she loves her headphones more than just about anything else. With these (really impressive) credentials, she will share her opinions about under-the-radar and alternative artists on her column “Make Up Your Mind,” named after one of her favorite Florence + the Machine songs. 

Haley Heyndrickx’s I Need to Start a Garden is a nostalgic joyride. It’s an album that makes me feel like I’m lying on a couch on the screened-in porch at my grandmother’s house in Pennsylvania. We’ve just finished dinner. The adults have gone inside to finish the wine. I’m still outside on the couch — Houston’s June weather is not this nice. The sky is dark blue, almost becoming purple, but not quite. The wind filters through the gargantuan trees. (For those of you unfamiliar with my grandmother’s house at 8 p.m. in late June, think Moonrise Kingdom. That’s the vibe.)

Now that you have that hyper-specific image of how this album feels, let’s actually talk about it. I’m a little late to the game in finding this treasure of an album — Hendrickx released it in March 2018. The album itself is only eight songs, but its 30-minute runtime is perfect for me. It’s an album you can sit down and listen to in one languid breath. In that breath, Heyndrickx adeptly weaves her honest vocals with deceptively complex instrumentation to create a beautiful album both musically and lyrically.

Let’s start with the instrumentation. Often sparing (see: the first minute of “Worth It”), simple guitar lines and steady drum beats anchor this album. But as the vocals grow and swell, so too does the instrumentation. With that growth, horns (frequently!), pianos (occasionally!) and back-up vocals (sparingly!) join. In “Show You a Body,” Heyndrickx sings, “I am letting you go.” Then, there’s a inhale and an exhale in the form of a fluttering piano line. It’s so beautiful that it caught me off guard the first time I heard it. I still hold my breath waiting for the first note.

The warm, muted instrumentals act as the perfect vehicle for Hendrickx’s lovely vocals and poignant lyrics. The smartest lyrics come in “Oom Sha La La.” The song starts off easy but builds to Heyndrickx screaming, “I need to start a garden” at 2:06. The screaming segues into an honest admission: “I’m gonna start a garden in my backyard / ‘Cause making this song up is just as hard.” This lyric gets at the heart of what Hendrickx does well. She doesn’t choose to paint the pretty picture; she tells it like it is. She doesn’t temper her environment, her stories or her emotions to fit the mold. When she’s frustrated, she screams. Everytime I hear her lyrics, it feels like Heyndrickx is sitting with me on that screened-in porch, telling me stories. (I especially like the story of the praying mantis that’s “a priest from a past life out to getcha” from “The Bug Collector.”)

This album is the one for this time of year — when the weather constantly oscillates between cold and hot (but it’s always humid). It’s 30 minutes of lightning in a bottle, and it feels like those deep blue, slightly sticky summer nights when it’s best to look for fireflies. I hesitate to call anything perfect, but this album might be as close as I’ll ever see. It’s smart and funny and beautiful and honest, and it reminds me of my grandparents’ house.

Best song: “The Bug Collector”

Best moment: 0:04 on “Show You a Body”

Best lyric: “She’ll never get to eat you like your heart’s a pomegranate” from “Oom Sha La La”

Rating: 5/5