From the opening pop chord of Haley Klinkhammer’s album Finding Myself I was taken by the incredible production quality. Her voice sounds great! It’s energetic and fun. It sounds like the kind of album that a teen girl would love. And you know what, I’m neither a teenager nor a girl, but I find some true inspiration in this music. Haley has captured a mountain of energy in pop hooks, catchy vocals, and guitar chords that will keep a smile on the listener’s face. Some readers may be wondering why I’m covering this album since girl pop isn’t really my wheelhouse… well, to you, skeptical reader, I say listen to one song (really any of them) from this album and you’ll see why I like it so much. She has an infectiously awesome sound. That… is what I like to write about.
“Speaking My Mind” has a somewhat jaded tone to it, but has that magnetic Taylor Swift vibe of dealing with past boyfriends. The anthemic “whoas” make the song fun and certainly easy to sing with. Many people who have experienced bad breakups or the forlorn emotions of past relationships will find something to relate to in this song.
“We All Have a Story” is an inspiration, too. It’s our first hint on the album that Haley is bringing a worship-inspired message. From chord structures to overall message, we begin to hear the influence of Haley’s faith. “No matter what I do… God you help me through.” Albeit a bit slowed down compared to her opener, this instrospective and reflective song gives the album a complexity unexpected from someone so young. “We all have a story to tell… a story of a time in which we fell farther than we ever have, farther than we ever knew…” It’s powerful, truly.
The title track “Finding Myself” is a coming-of-age story and seems to reflect an honest struggle to understand identity. What makes the song so good, other than its simple sweetness, is the lyrical honesty that offers an almost confessional heart of the songwriter. “How can I live up to the expectations of this place? When will I speak up and say that I’m not sure of where I’m headed? Do all of you who have told me that I’ll make it one day? Sometimes I’m not so sure. Sometimes I run away from it. Sometimes I lose myself. I’m a stranger to me.” Wow. Haley, thank you for explaining how I felt a decade ago. Responding to family… self… this is a fantastic song that a lot of people will connect with in profound ways.
I think “All About You” is the best musically constructed song on the album. The words are obvious worship lyrics. The song’s structure really reminds me of traditional worship music (ala Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc.). Haley’s harmonies are particularly good on this song. I think it’s the best overall production on the album. If I were directly advising Haley, this is the song I would tell her to send to Christian radio stations. This is a single and, obviously, a hit.
Not to overplay the (unfortunate?) label that Klinkhammer will get, but “Missing What Never Was” really makes her sound like the “Christian Taylor Swift.” I know. I know I said it and I’m sorry, but you were all thinking it so I just had to. This song is a frustrated post-breakup jam. “No I see that it’s not real… I’m missing what never was.” Again, an infinitely relatable emotion brought to you in the midst of a wonderfully-written pure pop song. This is the single I would send to pop radio.
“We’re Only Human” brings the listener back down to a serene reflection on life. It shows that Klinkhammer can do both upbeat pop and softer, deeper songs well. This song in particular would be really good without the full band behind her, but a stripped down acoustic version. That said, the band helps to create a fuller set of emotion. It is a deep song that’s drawing on a sense of personal pain.
The last song on the album is “You and Me,” a hopeful title if there ever was one. The pop vocal complexities on this song are evident. The producers snuck a banjo into the background of this song, giving it a country feel. And then Haley’s lyrics like “between our quirky imperfections we’re a perfect work of art” we get a chance to see the real heart of the song. It’s fun, light hearted, and gives that nostalgic tingle that Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” once did.
This is a really good pop album. It might even have some crossover in the country world as well. But the bottom line is this is a remarkably talented young lady. I’d hate to pigeon-hole the audience of this work too much (since I personally enjoy it quite a bit), but it will have obvious appeal among female tweens and teens. Beyond that, though, there’s an obvious gift here in Haley’s voice and writing that will be awesome to watch over the rest of her career.
Although this is not on the album, here’s another delightful Haley original. Go buy the album, subscribe to her YouTube, and support this wonderful emerging singer songwriter.