Recently, TikTok has become my hub for new music discovery. When I start to get bored with my playlists or songs that have been on repeat, I turn to the viral social media app for inspiration from my tailored “For You Page.”
One of my favorite finds from TikTok has undoubtedly been the musician Holly Humberstone.
Humberstone falls into a musical genre that has been growing in popularity and recognition for many years — indie pop. According to Rate Your Music, the number of music releases in the indie pop genre has been on the rise, beginning in the early 1980s. Famous indie pop artists include Lana Del Rey, Lorde and many others. Just this past year, Olivia Rodrigo, an indie pop artist, broke the record for the most simultaneous songs in the Billboard Top 10 with eight, beating out Taylor Swift who previously held the record.
In Nov. 2021, Humberstone released her second EP, titled “The Walls Are Way Too Thin.” Since discovering her EP on TikTok in December, I have been obsessed.
Humberstone so perfectly captures the feeling of aimless youth — a time of so much possibility but also so much confusion. Over the EP’s six-track run, we get a glimpse into the winding path Humberstone’s life has taken, falling in and out of love as she repeatedly moves from city to city.
“Haunted House,” the EP’s opening track, sees Humberstone reflecting on her childhood home while dealing with her feelings of nostalgia and restlessness. The ballad meanders from imagery from her childhood, such as “dirty knees and honey bees and nowhere else would sting as sweet,” to growing up and moving out.
“And one day I’ll drive past you, if I recognize you I’ll try not to stay too long, see the soil I grew upon,” Humberstone sings. “In a couple years, I’ll be alright.”
The track’s simple piano backing strikes right at the heart with a bittersweetness that is augmented by beautiful harmonies that build throughout the song. It is a stunning listen, and I envy those hearing it for the first time.
On “Scarlett,” one of my favorite tracks from the EP, Humberstone writes about her friend Scarlett’s breakup from Scarlett’s perspective.
“And you said, ‘Scarlett, I don’t need to be responsible for everything you’re feeling. You’re emotional grim reaper, I feel bad for you,’” Humberstone sings, describing her friend’s ex breaking up with her. However, she follows this up with, “And I will show myself out. I know I adore you, but I don’t need you now.”
In an interview with Apple Music, Humberstone said she wanted Scarlett to see herself how Humberstone sees her — strong and independent of the relationship. It’s unquestionably a stand-out gem. “Scarlett” is an empowering song, yet one that sheds the sickly sweet optimism that drips from many empowering anthems.
The EP’s final song, “Friendly Fire,” articulates the confusing and difficult ending of a relationship where Humberstone wants to put herself first but doesn’t want to do so at the expense of her partner. The feeling Humberstone communicates is hard to explain, yet she manages to relay it in a clear and relatable way.
“Teenage affection is often confusing,” Humberstone sings. “I’m starting to feel like it’s wearing thin.” Then, later, Humberstone assures her partner that “if I burn you, it’s all friendly fire.”
The production of the song is surprisingly upbeat, almost resembling a racing heartbeat, yet the lyrics fall in line with the themes of the EP. Growing pains do not only affect the individual — they can hurt those around them as well, intentionally or not. However, in the end, Humberstone recognizes that the best she can do is choose herself — a powerful and important lesson.
At 22, Humberstone sounds extremely self-assured. Her first EP, “Falling Asleep At The Wheel,” released in Aug. 2020, sees Humberstone developing her sound and finding her place within the greater indie pop genre.
“The Walls Are Way Too Thin,” however, showcases the progress Humberstone has made in carving her place in the massive sonic landscape of today. It is a beautiful and powerful piece by a young artist with immense potential.