If you’re honest, you like pop music.
There’s a reason it’s popular music, right? At its best, it’s catchy, relatable, and absolutely a ton of fun. It’s designed to be those things, and I love it for that.
But the drawback of pop music is that it can also feel staged. Because it’s built to be relatable, it can quickly backslide into cliche, take on a sterile emptiness like it was designed in a lab, or evoke a sugary sweetness that tastes unnatural and unsatisfying.
It can feel flat.
But it doesn’t have to. And my favorite pop songs – the ones that last past the end of the summer – aren’t flat. Actually, they’re deep.
That’s what’s striking about Haelphon’s music, and about Haelphonics, the debut full length that’s premiering today. It’s catchy, it’s relatable, but it’s all arriving from an honest personal place, and because of that there’s depth from the opening track to the final notes.
In short, Haelphonics is great pop music.
Album opener “Sentimental” is a fitting introduction to the album’s stylistic and lyrical leanings (which are fully worth digging into on Genius). Opened by the throbbing minor chords of a synth, the track features keen-eyed and honest observations on early adulthood, delivered over sparse percussion via a near-spoken flow that evokes shades of Drake. The track never reaches a full drop, but it still hits hard, and it sets the stage for Haelphon’s discourse on mental health.
Second song “Lights Out” is actually uncomfortably relatable – it’s about phone addiction and our tendency to look for hope in our screens instead of in actual humans.
Likes on our phones
Notice all the glow
Sitting in the silence
Sitting all alone
Delivered over 80s-inspired drums, shiny electronic keys, and a bed of pulsing synth, it’s aching and honest and worth repeated plays.
“Black Death” might be my favorite track on the album, and a large part of that is because sonically, it jams. Built on a tropical soundscape, it’s a devastatingly effective tribute to the millennial substance abuse crisis.
It’s like the black death’s back
The lyrics are sung over percussive major chords that sound festival-ready, and the result – head-bobbing music over heartrending words – is haunting.
Previously-released “Make Up Your Mind” and “Mixed Emotions” anchor the album’s strong middle section before closer “Cabin Fever” delivers a memorable final blow.
I’m just tryna fill the void that’s been had
Just so tired of the state that I’ve been in
It’s a self-aware summation of the difficulty of mental health, and it’s final proof that pop music doesn’t have to be made in a lab to be relatable.
Actually, it’s at its best when it drops the facade, when it’s one person communicating the specific and difficult depth of real experience.
Give it a listen, and then go follow Haelphon across the internet. But don’t lose yourself in your screen in the process – he wouldn’t want that. Just blast it and be honest with yourself: if it’s this good, you like pop music, too.