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Helena Deland
Someone New Katherine Rodgers , November 10th, 2020 09:20

Debut album from Montreal's Helena Deland cements her reputation as "the Young Thug of indie rock"

'Truth Nugget', the lead single from Helena Deland’s debut album Someone New, takes its name from a phrase in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “I should never be able to fulfill what is, I understand, the first duty of a lecturer - to hand you after an hour's discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece forever.” Like Woolf, Deland does not deal in neatly-wrapped nuggets of truth. She’s a tricky one to pin down - her credits to date include a slot supporting Weyes Blood on tour (back when live music was still a Thing that Happened); a rag-tag series of songs spread across four volumes called Altogether Unaccompanied, and a feature on a JPEGMafia song (who reportedly called her ‘the Young Thug of indie rock’).

Someone New finds her leaning into that capriciousness. Her music slips effortlessly between genres: 'Truth Nugget' is smart, incisive indie rock; with Deland’s voice rising clear as a bell over shimmering guitars, it is probably the ‘easiest’ song on the record. 'Dog' is a sweet, lo-fi groove which wouldn’t sound out of place on the latest Clairo album, and 'Pale' is something else entirely: a psychedelic pop number soaked in reverb, at once jaunty and narcotised.

While the sounds may be unpredictable, there are unifying strands running through the lyrics of Someone New. While Altogether Unaccompanied was, by Deland’s own admission, released entirely at random, Someone New is thoughtful, full of intent. The record details the fall-out from a romantic relationship Deland describes as ‘toxic’, and the pain of sacrificing part of yourself to a lover, only to have the relationship crumble. The lyrics on Someone New almost seem to walk Deland through this grieving process - on the title track, Deland wonders if "kissing someone new / Who tells me something pretty" will cure her feelings of stagnation, a slightly more poetic version of the old adage ‘the only way to get over someone is to get under someone else.’ Deland’s yearning quickly curdles into - not anger exactly, but an unflinching examination of the ways she has been wronged: "I tried shrinking so small / You could fit me into / Something that belongs to you" Deland sighs on 'Fruit Pit'. Elsewhere, Deland scolds that she "hates to be your dog / Your hand on my head / Like I’m about to be trained", joining the ranks of artists like Soccer Mommy who have contributed vengeful reduxes of The Stooges’ classic, ‘I Want To Be Your Dog.’

Someone New is not an easy record. The thirteen tracks here often take surprising turns, with melodies unravelling slowly and musical textures shifting and swelling disorientingly under Deland’s cool, clear voice. But for those of you who have the patience, there is a great deal of warmth, wit and virtuosity present here. At the very least, it is a much-needed comfort for anyone who has ever suffered the trials and tribulations of having a shitty boyfriend.