A brutally beautiful take on loneliness
Evie Gower
12:05 12th October 2022

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Welcome to Sad Girl Autumn! It’s the season of pining, wishing for your Gilmore Girls lifestyle, burning your tongue on hot coffee … Enter Skullcrusher, with her debut album, Quiet the Room. This is an album to both experience and heal your melancholia and nostalgic tendencies.

Helen Ballentine, who records under Skullcrusher, is set to be your new favourite artist: or at least mine. Exploring the complexity of childhood memories resurfacing now you’re completely past that point of life and the way that life becomes so lonely for a bit before you find your feet - Quiet The Room provides a soundtrack to figuring it out.

The alternative-folk region of music which Ballentine resides in is shaped for her, with her Hope Sandoval style of acoustic guitar, piano, and sweet vocals. The way that folk artists play guitar without shying from the strings vibrating on the fretboard has always been something incredible, creating an authentic sound that doesn't fear feeling - and Ballentine's music embraces all the emotions. Bringing the vulnerability that her lyrics explore into the music as well, it's a satisfyingly coheyoysive union that plunges you deep into the mood of the record. 

"It's a meta take, engaging with her personal experience while acknowledging that memory isn't fact..."

But that isn't always a happy thing. Full of nostalgia, Ballentine invites you to reckon with the fact that memory isn't always a good thing. Perspective with age can bring up something entirely different and she gets this; her own nostalgia focusing on how childhood is not necessarily as innocent as it seems in retrospect.

Track eight ‘Could it be the way I look at everything?’ introduces the idea of perspective, tacking the multiple view points from which we observe everything, past and future. It's a meta take, engaging with her personal experience while acknowledging that memory isn't fact. I love that the theme of perspective is not only a brilliant way to consume art, but also a form of rationalisation in recollection. She sings of seeing things through someone else’s eyes, reflecting upon her youth and processing emotions to pass through to a better version of herself - packing this album full of different people while maintaining one singular voice.

This album is above all else, an exploration of Ballentine’s self – beginning to understand that her emotions are what make her, her. The final track, ‘You are my House’, sees her accept that her loneliness houses her – maybe more than she houses it. The lines "I sink my feet into you / I am aware of my weight and the ways it affects you" took me back: this understanding that loneliness is all consuming is so refreshing to hear in such a brutallyhonest way. Focussing in on her loneliness until it is just another part of her, she takes her fear and becomes it. Humanising herself and her emotions in the process. 

Discussions of fear overwhelm the songs on this record, and not in a negative way – we get to see raw emotion turned into beautiful folk songs, a form of art which embraces all aspects of life. Much like a heavy session of reflection, once these thoughts are gone, your brain feels somewhat empty. And as the album fades into silence, it's like one last final challenge from Ballentine - inviting you to embrace your own loneliness now, sit with your feelings.

Favourite track: Window Somewhere

Add it to: Your post-therapy crying playlist

Quiet The Room is out October 14th.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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