When discussing Halloway, the late-2016 EP from Tessa Violet, the natural inclination is to focus on the album’s jaunty electropop feel. While it’s true that ‘Dream’ moves along on the back of a bouncing hook and that ‘Not Over You’ sounds like the musical lovechild of Tillian and Carly Rae Jepsen, these salient points do not address the most compelling aspect of Violet’s most recent EP: ‘Haze,’ the malevolent instant-classic at the literal center of Halloway.
There’s a long history of pop musicians getting bored with their vanilla personas and trying to diversify; what usually follows is an attempt to don the black hat and try on (the appearance of) some villainy. I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. ‘Haze’ is dark and troubled but authentically so. This may be the first pop song I’ve ever heard that sounds truly sinister. It’s sparse and baleful, its melody driving towards an ominous cadence even as the delicacy of Violet’s vocals contrasts with the surrounding gloom, heightening the dramatic tension. ‘Haze’ thrives on that contrast. Compared to oft-overdone heel turns that rely on sonic violence or aggression, Violet’s approach is casual, nonchalant and dispassionately calculating. It also hints at a sense of victimhood, revealing the self-doubt that lies behind so many good villains. Honestly, it’s pretty fucking great. And so is the rest of Halloway. If you love pop music and you weren’t keeping an eye on Violet prior to this release – and I certainly wasn’t – you should be now.
You can find Brennan on Twitter and Instagram or at his website, all of which are filled with his random musical thoughts, like, for example, how ‘Haze’ is probably the only song to reference both Shakespeare and Fifty Shades of Grey in the same line. So that’s something.