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Skullcrusher

Skullcrusher
Release Date: 2020-06-26
Catalog No: SC408
Label: Secretly Canadian

'Skullcrusher' is, by all accounts, an exploration of the ways you become yourself when you aren’t looking – and how that feels once you start paying attention. It’s a quiet power; a hushed celebration of the tiny, understated subtleties that culminate into knowing yourself. On her debut EP, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between gray areas, a stretch of uncertainty and unemployment, and the subsequent search for identity. Here, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine grapples with how to communicate her private self to an audience.

The four dark, dreamy songs on her debut EP were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. There’s 'Valerie and her Week of Wonders,' the Czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. There’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence.

On the opening “Places/Plans,” Ballentine sighs, “Come in, the window's open and I'm lying alone,” which feels fitting for the entirety of the EP – Ballentine invites the listener into the depths her personal, intense solitude. “I put so much emphasis on this private self, and all of these things that I love that are my own, and as soon as I let someone else into that, it’s really hard,” Ballentine says. “But I’m also someone who wants to let someone else into that. It’s sort of this back-and-forth about wanting to connect to other people but also being a little bit afraid of that.”

The EP’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. Instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.
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