Album Review: Holly Henry – The Orchard EP
by Kori Rae
Minneapolis-based Holly Henry garnered a rather large fan base following her outstanding blind audition on season 5 of The Voice. The first few moments of her August 2015 EP, The Orchard, encapsulate the power of her draw: her voice is indeed noteworthy. She has the type of tone and control that can gently interrupt conversation as heads turn her way. The Orchard opens with a forty-six second track entitled “Arbor” rife with vocals and effects that introduce what one can only hope will be a deeper dive into the soul of her music.
The standout track for me was easy to pick out; it’s only the second track, I wrote in my notes “probably standout track” before listening to the rest. “Hotel” is delicious. It’s sultry and seductive, with breathtaking timing and jazzy undertones. The lyrics speak of longing and deliver shivers—truly a tasty song. “Skin” also hit hard and really worked for me; it’s an incredibly intimate treat that allows the listener to witness one of those breathless moments frozen in time. The understated use of her voice and subtle backing vocals are extremely effective. Holly is very skilled in the art of accentuating her message with her vocals, which speaks volumes of the control and talent she brings to the table. “Skin” is full of lip-biting goodness: “You say I’m thin/never been a kid who knows her name/but from within/you breathe down my throat that we’re the same.”
The title track hit home the least for me, but I can see the appeal it would bring for many. “The Orchard” is pretty, with a contemporary pop feel and curious whimsy in its lyrics: “Lay down between the freckles of light across your cheek and down your side/I’m really nothing special/I learned to think the world was locked inside/and I know where the key is/but I don’t know where she is.” This piece pairs nicely with The Orchard’s other poppy track, “Foolish Heart.” Talk about a flashback to early twenties—“Foolish Heart” brought me straight back to what it feels like to be younger and exploring poetic expressions of the experience of love. Holly is consistent with her unique approach to writing and use of unexpected descriptions that work so well: “Deadbeats/machines, we got our teeth cleaned/aren’t we pretty/smells like nicotine/she isn’t funny/he’s a cruiser/I’m a loser.”
The Orchard closes with pretty piano paired with simple vocal melodies that let the clarity of Holly’s voice truly shine. “Better” is a hypnotic song that sounds like a self-portrait. If it’s as autobiographical as it seems, Holly wins a lot of points in my book for including such self-reflecting and hopefulness: “I know they still/laugh about my pills/what a funny girl/I wish they could tell/that I’m getting better.”
This is an enjoyable EP, and if it’s an omen of what we will see in her continued musical career, the future is bright. It isn’t incredibly hard-hitting, but it’s full of skill; Holly clearly knows what she’s doing and possesses so much talent in her vocals and lyricism. I would love to see her pair those two components with a little more raw passion, and I am hopeful that her next endeavors will deliver and even better experience.