Finding familiarity in new music can either work well or be a complete bust. Influence and originality sometimes fit best between paying homage and being paralyzed in the past. There’s a respectable nostalgia to “this artist and I have similar tastes” when it’s not total emulation or a mediocre copy of something done before. This is the most respectable kind of music in my opinion – artists that learn from predecessors but expand on what they did by combining different musical tastes, tools, and talents to create a product that looks different than the original ingredients first brought to the table. That said, Henrietta is somewhat of an indie rock melting pot.
When I first put on Paper Wings, I heard aspects of other artists I love – Copeland and Further Seems Forever most heavily (as Substream previously pointed out), but also Mae and Moneen at times. And while all those bands were based in similar scenes (most of them are broken up or rarely active), they were all distinctively different. In proper form, Henrietta is distinctively from their peers and influences as well.
Beginning with the title track, Henrietta showcases their solid mix of pretty, American Football-esque guitar parts and heavy-for-emphasis climactic moments from the get go. The song is a good introduction to the rest of the EP and folds right into the next track, “Departures” which lays on the heavier side of their instrumentation, but without feeling dark. But Henrietta’s sound isn’t only limited to the heavier and lighter side of this. Each song is unique: “Black & Blue” is a poppier track, while “Arrows” is a gloomy slow jam. “In the Backyard” almost meets between math and punk, while “Opposite Ways” is a sad closer track that tells the story of a relationship’s end in a more closure-focused way than a “currently dealing with it” kind of way. The release concludes with vocalist Manny Urdaneta singing “Just leave me under this bridge, let my body float in the water” as the band carries you away with an acoustic guitar-led track titled “Few Friends”.
My only complaint about Paper Wings is pretty small: I wish there were a few more catchy moments in this album. I don’t mean the kind of “hooks” that radio executives talk about to attract their general audience. Rather, I mean that while the guys in Henrietta are very talented and pretty good songwriters, it’d be great to hear a lyric or a melody or a guitar part or something in each that summarizes the overall feel or point of some songs a little more clearly. I think of it as a musical punchline, and while there’s no proper way to do this or not do it, I think it would serve Henrietta well if they were able to write them in without compromising the intricate instrumentation and border pushing that makes them who they are (To be fair, I think the song “Opposite Ways” does a good job of this from the get go).
All that said, Henrietta gets a 4.5/5 for Paper Wings. Keep on the lookout for this band! They deserve your attention and by the looks of it, they’ll have it fast.