Haley Heynderickx’ debut LP is a masterclass in songwriting where the small things are treated with the respect that they are what compose the big things.
I Need to Start a Garden, the full-length debut from singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx, is a brief 30-minute stroll, but every second is imbued with a deeply moving sense of self and soul. Heynderickx’ songwriting is evocative and incisive, a constant element of psychedelia pulsing just below the surface.
Listen to album highlight “The Bug Collector” and you’ll know what I mean. Heynderickx sings about collecting a series of bugs that are proving distressing to a companion. The song begins with, “And there’s a centipede naked in your bedroom / Oh and you swear to God the fucker’s out to get you”.
The face of the song is bizarre, Wonderland-like, but the core of the song is that of a love song. More specifically, it’s a song about sacrificial love in the face of illness, or delusion, anxiety, or strife. The song ends with, “Oh and I digress, ’cause I must make you the perfect morning / And I try my best to prove that nothing’s out to get you.” The grace and intimacy conveyed through her voice is really, truly heartbreaking.
Heynderickx’ voice has a natural kind of warble – think Angel Olsen – and she sounds just as emotive when singing softly on “The Bug Collector” as she does wailing on “Worth It”. And while that voice is almost exclusively accompanied by acoustic guitar, although occasionally by piano and horn, the guitar work is varied and emotive, too.
On the instantly iconic “Untitled God Song”, Heynderickx’ opens with a basic set of folksy chords, but after a few runs through the main chords, she sneaks in a dark country-tinged riff. The space between chorus and verse is filled with a 90s alt-grunge line, like something Speedy Ortiz would run on Major Arcana. It ends with a burst of western-inspired horns, inspiring thoughts of a sunrise across the desert. That those divergent sonics meld beautifully in a song about the different forms God can take feels significant.
Above all else, I Need to Start a Garden is a highlight reel of bold, self-assured songwriting from an artist with an incredible ability to tie the small to the grand. On album closer “Drinking Song”, Heynderickx starts consecutive verses with, “And there’s a light at the end of a dock,” and “And there’s a light at the end where I smoke”. Garden is all about the variations of things – the bugs, the lights, the Gods. Heynderickx makes epics of the minute, and I Need to Start a Garden is nothing if not epic.