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Holly Humberstone – Paint My Bedroom Black Review

Promising to say the least, Holly Humberstone has charted some comfortable hits and playlist essentials already. Flipping back and forth between her original works, her cover of Seventeen Going Under and the opening spot she held for Sam Fender at St. James’ Park has been a treat. Her first album proper, Paint My Bedroom Black, is as intense and well-formed for an artist who has held back on rushing to this point. Time has been taken, that much is clear. The jolly build found in the titular, opening track and the promise of a “new horizon” is a confident approach for Humberstone. Rightly so, she has more than enough in her backlog of tracks to feel like conquering these alt-pop charms. 

Introspective honesty is on the rise in music, and the more of it the better. If it is of the same quality as Paint My Bedroom Black, then it needs welcoming. Into Your Room is one of those many moments which see comparisons to Lorde or Phoebe Bridgers turned away. It is a sensible comparison, Humberstone is of their quality but turns a new tone with the likes of Kissing In Swimming Pools and Elvis Impersonators. There is still a firm indie undertone to it all. A delightful, warm quality flows through these tracks, particularly Cocoon and the need to break from it. Wrapping up in relatability is no way to push forward and Humberstone knows this, with plenty of challenging efforts within Paint My Bedroom Black, noticeably the slate of singles which popped up before the album was released. 

Still, in conjunction with the record itself, they sit quite nicely. Antichrist proves a strong buffer between a D4vd-featuring track, Superbloodmoon, and the aptly titled Lauren. Heartbreaking relatability flows through these tracks, not least Ghost Me which explores the distance and breakdown of modern relationships. It hits and it hurts as Humberstone guides her listeners through a mature and well-deployed series of messages which bring about the fears of modern living. Flatlining and Elvis Impersonators provide quieter, calmer experiences and then the steady steer into Bridgers and Lorde-like material carries on. It is a moment which sees Humberstone sit on the fence, not quite ready to commit to their style and still dragging along her own alt-pop experience.  

One of the two will eventually give, though Paint My Bedroom Black has so far managed to toe the line of these conflicting momentums. Those links with Fender will pay off nicely for fans of the latter. Both are from towns and cities where music does not, truly, spark all that much. When your main outputs are Sting and Nicholas Maw, respectfully, there is not much to it. Humberstone is flying a bold new flag for the alt-pop genre, the relatable flow of her work here is as important as the sharp mixing and self-proclaimed exposure of emotional struggle. Paint My Bedroom Black is as earnest as it is incredible in spots, though the hopes of continued independence are waylaid by what came before it. Humberstone has those moments of pure class, and they are more than enough to keep the album spinning.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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