White Hinterland, the project by singer-songwriter Casey Dienel for her often piano based art pop songs mostly started hitting people’s ears in 2010 with her second album, ‘Kairos’. Her dream pop album with a thick atmosphere that was so smooth and beautiful that you could digest it all easily. Her new album ‘Baby’ is a lot more of a diverse album with some truly jarring tracks and some linear piano ballads, but at the end of it a more enjoyable experience than previous efforts. And one that when you immerse yourself into is one that you will connect with on a lot of levels.
The album was recorded in her parent’s basement and that’s exactly how it sounds both sonically and lyrically throughout most of the tracks on here. Right from the opening song ‘Wait Until Dark’ you get the feeling of cold isolation as Dienel sings for the first minute of the song acapella. Even after the pianos and beautifully powerful harmonies come in on this track you still get the feeling that Dienel was pouring every inch of herself into recording this album whilst alone in that basement. Even on a lot of the upbeat tracks including the title track she hums in reverb drenched faded harmonies in the background creating an extremely ghostly atmosphere. The ending of the song ‘David’ has the sound of rain hitting a roof gradually getting louder overpowering Dienel’s humming and piano to further hit home the feeling of isolation on this record.
Lyrically Dienel has not held back on any of the songs on here and it feels like she’s opened up her mind and emptied every thought she has about her love life onto the table. The straight up (almost blunt) truthfulness on some of these lyrics are something that can truly shock you or pull at your heartstrings. The song ‘David’ is probably strongest with Dienel singing directly to her lover telling him how he shouldn’t believe in god or fate but that it is all down to them that they fell in love. With lines like ‘Whatever you say, don’t say we were lucky’ showing that It’s a song about not searching for reassurance but finding your own way in a relationship. Due to this being a very linear piano ballad it doesn’t distract from the lyrics and is the hardest hitting on here, but lines like these are all over the album such as ‘My shyness was an act, to make you feel secure’ in the song ‘Baby’. You don’t get this kind of honesty in an average pop record.
Some of the pure weight of the production makes some of the more jittery upbeat songs suffer a bit as you are less able to appreciate the hooks and Dienel’s incredible voice. Sometimes you feel there is just so much going on in terms of production that it’s hard to listen to it as a whole piece. But for the most part Dienel shines through it all offering some incredible vocal performances. Her ability to go from almost a whisper to the point where her voice is almost faltering because she’s putting so much power behind it is something to truly admire and is the glue holding everything together.
Though some of these songs will be quite jarring for first time listeners, this album demands repeat listens for the listener to strip back the layers. This album will have something for everyone, even it’s just trying to figure out what on earth is going on with Casey’s hair in the album artwork.