Call me if you can, tell me I’m the operator
Lit flares in my hands and I’m set to explode
I’m a minefield you marvel at, but don’t get too close
Thus begins Half Waif‘s most recent album, 2014’s Kotekan. The lines have proven to be prophetic, as over the eight months since its release, Half Waif has begun to collect acclaim from some great publications, and recently completed their first tour.
The nom de band of Ananda Rose Plunkett, Half Waif is a project that features a woman at the top of her game, compositionally, vocally, and lyrically. The dense arrangements on Kotekan are a development from 2013’s Future Joys, which was sparser and served well to show off Plunkett’s agile and strong voice. That year, Half Waif split a 7″ with Deerhoof, and it helped build a solid base of publicity. Here’s my favorite from that EP, Wooden Horse, which spent lots of time in my headphones in 2013:
This time around, it feels as though Plunkett has realized she’s got her vocal chops down and is ready to move on to the heavy lifting of arranging and composing, which she does equally well. The arrangements are complex and lush, the songwriting is confident enough to bluster here while baring Plunkett’s heart there, and wearily rebuke an ex-lover somewhere else, all with the same poise. This is what gives Half Waif staying power: Plunkett is deeply in control of her craft and she can do it all, a maestro/performer (maestra?) in the vein of David Longstreth or Annie Clark who keeps easy control over all aspects of the music she produces, not having to lean on a more accomplished co-writer (even though Kotekan was co-written and produced by Devin Greenwood, it is completely Plunkett’s) or band members who understand music better than she does. The creative fire will never go away.
Compare the opening track, Operator, with its vim and vigor, red highway flares in hand,
to the desolate vision of a crumbling house and a useless husk of a relationship in All My Armor:
Nandi Plunkett does sad really well, but on Kotekan she proves she’s got way more in the tank. The beats are sweet, there’s a small, possibly purposeful Chief Keef nod in the syllabic rhythm of the opening bars of the record, and the synths are all over the place. In the best way. There’s definitely more coming from this aggressively skilled musician and whatever her project looks like, Half Waif will always be worth a listen.
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