I was first introduced to Heynderickx’s work in my first year of uni, locked away in student halls, watching the university experience I had spent years waiting for disappear at the hands of Covid. Heynderickx’s single ‘Oom Sha La La’ seemed to encapsulate this visceral sensation of time slipping away in a way nothing else could – it took only the very first line “the milk is sour, I’ve barely been to college, and I've been doubtful, of all that I have dreamed of” and I was well and truly hooked.
‘Oom Sha La La’ was first released as a single in 2017, before re-release as part of Heynderickx’s acclaimed debut album I Need to Start a Garden (2018). The track was Heynderickx’s first major hit before she eventually found further recognition in 2021 as another song from the album, ‘The Bug Collector’, went viral on TikTok. According to Clunk Magazine, ‘Oom Sha La La’ began as an “embarrassing stream of consciousness experiment that went much further than ever expected”, yet the Portland-based musician’s success was certainly not a fluke. Not a single song on the album disappoints, even the seven-minute-long ballad ‘Worth It’ keeps you engrossed (and emotionally unstable) until the very end.
The album’s tracks are linked by a deeply sensitive, emotional view of the world. Heynderickx cossets the rare gift of turning even the most morose of subject matter into a beautiful, ultimately hopeful experience. Take ‘Drinking Song’, the final track of the album and one of my personal favourites. In this track, Heynderickx explores the intersection of loss and togetherness with lyrics that stay with you long after the song concludes - “and the edge of the world makes it seem/that everyone gone is still singing the same song”. It is Heynderickx's command of the written word which sets her apart from other artists within the genre, she manages to grapple with some of the darkest themes whilst maintaining a delicate lightness in her exploration of emotion - it is this combination that makes her music truly addictive.
Whilst her musical prowess is evident through her work, Heynderickx’s true genius lies in her songwriting itself. Each track layers whimsical and often fantastical images, building rich metaphors into the atmospheric soundscapes she creates within each song. Heynderickx is anything but your typical singer-songwriter. Her lyrical prowess paired with a deep appreciation for beautiful melodies and full harmonies creates a listening experience unlike many others.
Haley Heynderickx remains a criminally underrated artist whose work belongs firmly in the playlists of every student who feels life is passing them by much too quickly – so, that being said, go give her a listen.