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Haley Blais is a Vancouver based singer-songwriter and musician. Haley has been DIY-ing it since 2014, turning out song after song of defiant scream-into-your-pillow bedroom pop anthems recorded in her actual bedroom. Since the success of her 2018 EP Let Yourself Go, Haley has earned a considerable online reputation for her self-deprecating, self-loving balladry sung out in operatic crescendos. 90k monthly Spotify listeners and 175k YouTube subscribers have been eagerly awaiting new material.
Below the Salt is the debut studio LP from the up and comer, released on Tiny Kingdom Music. Featuring production from indie favourites Tennis (Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley) and fellow Vancouver artist Louise Burns, Haley’s signature sound has matured into a distinct new voice. The record bursts out of the gate in a flurry of drums and keys, soaring synths have replaced ukulele noodling, and confidence has replaced doubt as Haley belts out rock and roll confessionals by way of Stevie Nicks, Karen Carpenter, and Hayley Williams. Her lyrics riff on the joys and banalities of the every day, on the need to break apart and away from an uninspiring life, on radical acceptance, and manifesting a world where you feel proud of yourself and who you’re surrounded by.
However, getting there is messy, and Haley doesn’t shy away from those moments either. “Can I become what I think I am?” She asks us on the album opener “Someone Called While You Were Out” over a jangling piano and violin. It’s a question that doesn’t necessarily have an answer, but that doesn’t stop her from asking it. “Find myself inside a cab at a stoplight/I like crying inside vehicles at night but it gets easier when all the lights go down/to avoid explaining the tears of a clown” she sings on “So Funny.” It’s an ugly process to realizing yourself and sometimes things aren’t pretty when you get there either. But at least we can take solace in some swelling harmonies and guitar solos, finding company with a voice that takes life and happiness seriously, but has plenty of fun with herself along the way.
At other times we’re witness to cathartic moments of epiphany, of questions with emphatic unrestrained answers. “Now I see what it’s about/Drowning me then dry me out/Careful things you’ve now forgot about me now/Ready or not” she shouts on “Ready or Not” before being enveloped by shoegazey riffs and strings.
Below the Salt is a coming of age story that recognizes that there is no real ‘coming of age.’ There are hundreds of instances of recognition and of learning. What do we do when we find them? Well according to Haley, we take them with us. As dissonant guitars strings fire and a bass drum pulses on the single “Rob the Original” Haley softly lulls us with this record’s ethos “With all these magic moments sparkling/This one’s mine.”