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  • Karlee Skipper

Album Review: "Paint My Bedroom Black" - Holly Humberstone


Photo: Holly Humberstone via Constatine//Spence


After three years since her debut, Holly Humberstone has finally released her highly-anticipated debut album, Paint My Bedroom Black. The 13-track album is a compilation of the singer’s inner thoughts and personal experiences. Deemed her “coming of age” album, the artist gives her listener’s an insight of her life through poetic lyrics and dark productions. Every single song released leading up to the album increased my excitement for the project. From the grim lyrics of “Antichrist” to the harmonies in “Superbloodmoon,” Humberstone picked the perfect singles to represent the album. Now, finally being able to listen to the record in full, I know that it was worth the wait to listen to the flawless masterpiece that is Paint My Bedroom Black.


Tracklist—

Paint My Bedroom Black

Into Your Room

Cocoon

Kissing In Swimming Pools

Ghost Me

Superbloodmoon (feat. D4vd)

Antichrist

Lauren

Baby Blues

Flatlining

Elvis Impersonators

Girl

Room Service

Holly Humberstone is an alt-pop singer-songwriter from Lincolnshire, England. Prior to releasing any music, the singer performed at the iconic Glastonbury Festival in 2019 on the BBC Music Introducing stage. Then in January 2020, she released her debut single, “Deep End.” After releasing two more original singles and a Radiohead cover, the artist released her debut EP, Falling Asleep at the Wheel. In March 2021, she was signed with Polydor Records in the UK and Darkroom/Interscope Records in the United States, as well as a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group. Then in fall 2021, she released her sophomore EP, The Walls Are Way Too Thin and earned the Brit Award for Rising Star. In 2022, she opened for artists such as Girl In Red and Olivia Rodrigo. Humberstone’s music is a mix of alt-pop, soft-rock, and pop rock, with inspirations from artists such as Damien rice, Ben Howard, Phoebe Bridgers, and Haim. In support of Paint My Bedroom Black, she will be heading out on her own headlining tour in Europe and Australia, so check out her social media and website for tickets!


“Paint My Bedroom Black”

Just two days prior to the full album arriving in listener’s hands, Humberstone surprised them with the title track, “Paint My Bedroom Black.” The opening song propels the audience into the alternative-pop project with a production filled with an electrifying guitar melody and infectious synth beats. The song illustrates the overwhelming freedom of breaking away from a toxic relationship and reclaiming your peace. Everyone once thought she would never “have the guts” to fight back, and she is here to prove them wrong. Humberstone proclaims that she is going to paint her bedroom black, blast her music, and board her windows up in an attempt to drown out all the noise— figuratively and literally. The artist wrote this track while juggling the overstimulating experience of being on tour and being isolated in her hotel room. The very first lyrics even represent this as she sings: “Here’s to new horizons.” While this is sung in the context of leaving an unhealthy relationship, Humberstone singing this to kickstart her debut album is a brilliant detail. After starting three years ago as an independent artist and releasing an indie EP, which then led to her signing to a major record label, Humberstone has had a whirlwind of a career. With her debut LP album, the singer has just introduced this new chapter of her life. And she is ready to see where it takes her. Furthermore, before she begins singing, Humberstone is heard speaking an ad-libbed part left behind from production: “Turn my voice up.” This exemplifies the singer’s power and her confidence. It shows that, whether in context of the toxic relationship or in her impressive career, she has learned to speak up for herself and make her voice heard. With “Paint My Bedroom Black,” Humberstone immediately draws the listener in through the meticulous details that make her music unique.


“Into Your Room”

“Into Your Room” is the fourth single released ahead of Paint My Bedroom Black. From my very first playthrough of the track, I immediately sent the song to some of my friends, imploring them to listen to it. Alongside a catchy beat that is absolute pop perfection, Humberstone shares a story of about clinging onto a love that she just cannot let go of. The song is composed of such brilliantly poetic lyrics that proves it is a certified masterpiece. From “Without you my soul is eternally doomed// You’re the center of this universe//My sorry ass revolves around you,” to “Don’t make me stand outside in the pouring rain// With a freshly ripped human heart from my ribcage// And a boom-box// How pathetic, babe,” Humberstone ingeniously describes this overwhelming, consuming love. The passion she feels for this person and her inability to let them go, even if she wanted to, is represented through her clever lyrics. From the five pre-released singles, “Into Your Room” is by far my favorite of them for her deep and profound lyricism.



“Cocoon”

One of the many reasons I love Humberstone is her natural proclivity to eloquently convey authentic human emotion and internal struggles. She established this talent from her very first single, “Deep End,” which shares the message of being there for someone through their darkest moments. In “Cocoon,” the singer takes this storyline and flips the script, where this time the narrator is the one in the deep end. The chorus solely consists of her repeating the phrase: “I’m just going through something.” Throughout the track, the emotional lyrics illustrate her experience of falling into a deep depression, sinking further and further and feeling paralyzed. Without explicitly stating clinical words, Humberstone ingeniously describes the despair that comes with depression, anxiety, and a frail mental health. In the first verse, she tells her loved one: “This is protocol// I need you here beside me//I’ve been paralyzed for more than a week// But don’t let it scare you// This is fairly routine.” She then enters the pre-chorus with the song title: “Soon, I’ll break out this cocoon.” She admits to this person that this is something she goes through—dark, depressive states that change her personality. And that they only need to be patient with her and be there for her, and eventually she will break out of this solemn place. Alongside an upbeat, alt-rock production, “Cocoon” contains an element of hope and reassurance that in the end, everything will be okay as long as she is not alone.


“Kissing In Swimming Pools”

Released a week prior to the album, “Kissing In Swimming Pools” is the fifth promotional single for Paint My Bedroom Black. The sentimental track is a sweet love song that effortlessly tugs on the hearts of listeners. The song explores the feeling of being so deeply in love with someone that you are completely comfortable with them and you can be your true, authentic self. Once again, through deep and insightful lyrics, Humberstone paints this picture beautifully. In the chorus, she tells her lover: “We don’t have to complicate it// I just wanna be alone with you.” She truly feels the most herself in the presence of her partner, making her want to spend all her time with them. Furthermore, she sings a clever parallel with the pre-choruses, making this sentiment even sweeter. She sings: “When you found me, I was a trainwreck// You gathered my bones in a blanket” and “When I met you, your cloud was heavy// I could repair you so gently.” This represents that prior to meeting, they both felt broken and bruised—unable to heal from their past. But now that they have one another, they have mended each other’s hearts and have grown this unbreakable bond. These lyrics convey the sweet notion that love is the most powerful force on this earth, making “Kissing In Swimming Pools” a perfect love song.


“Ghost Me”

“Ghost Me” is an incredibly poignant track that details Humberstone’s deep fears of losing her friends. The artist wrote the track about her experience of constantly being on the road and away from her family and friends. Her loved ones get to continue to live their lives without her, while she spends her nights alone in a hotel room. While she is grateful for the opportunity to live her dream, she is fearful that everyone is going to move on and forget about her. In the second pre-chorus, Humberstone makes a brilliant pop-culture reference that ingeniously encapsulates her sudden burst into stardom and fear of losing her roots. She sings: “The more I see, the less I know// And this feels like The Truman Show// Everybody’s up and left// And I can barely catch my breath.” The reference to the popular movie, in which the protagonist realizes that everyone in the world is watching everything he says and does for their entertainment, highlights the overwhelming feeling that Humberstone is experiencing. Now that she has been propelled into the limelight, she feels as if she is slowly losing herself and her former life. She is terrified that as she continues to spiral into her well-deserved fame, everyone from her hometown will soon forget her. In the chorus, she begs them to stay with the heart-wrenching lyrics: “And if you try to ghost me// And quit being in my life// Don’t you dare.” With these vulnerable lyrics, Humberstone beautifully describes the phenomenon of wanting success but not wanting to sacrifice everyone that helped you get there, making “Ghost Me” my favorite track on Paint My Bedroom Black.


“Superbloodmoon” (feat. d4vd)

The third single prior to the album’s release is a flawless alt-pop track featuring American artist, d4vd. The infectious song is composed of nostalgia and melancholy as the two artists sing a message of longing. A brief synth reverb introduces the track before Humberstone’s heavenly vocals kick-starts the verse. An electric guitar strums alongside her voice, drawing focus on the gloomy lyrics. Throughout the song, the singers harmonize as they share the story of a long-distanced relationship where the two lovers are left missing one another. The hook is not mentioned until the outro, where both artists sing: “I saw a super blood moon in the sky// Can you see it from where you are?” After learning about a super blood moon, Humberstone was inspired to write a song based on the idea of this rare phenomenon. She daydreamed about two lovers looking into the night sky and knowing they are looking at the same natural wonder, despite being thousands of miles apart. While the song is heart-wrenching, it also evokes a feeling of hope in the listener’s heart.



“Antichrist”

As the lead single from the album, I already have listened to this track a million times through. From the heavy vocal effects to the dark lyricism, Humberstone eloquently describes the feeling of being the villain— the “antichrist” who was designed to corrupt someone else and leave them broken hearted. The song begins with her singing the hook, “Am I the antichrist?// How do I sleep at night?// Just need to escape my mind// I guess it figures.” Layered vocal effects are utilized with a deep vocal harmony that emulate the demonic voice often found in horror movies. This immediately catches the listener’s attention as they are drawn in by the sinister atmosphere. They are intrigued by the deep questions that Humberstone is left asking herself—wondering if she is the bad guy. After the intro, the song instantly switches to the alt-pop production while the eerie hook continues to make an appearance in the chorus. The moment I first heard this song, I knew that her new era of music would be incredible. Of course, at the time I did not know that it would be a part of her perfect debut album, making it all that more special.



“Lauren”

The moment I heard the opening line of “Lauren,” I had to restart the song to ensure I heard the lyrics right. Sure enough, I was correct, and the track was instantly boosted to a top place on my album ranking. Humberstone opens the track with: “I used to drive you home, but now I just drive you crazy.” This was another excellent example of the singer’s clever songwriting, using brilliant word play to captivate her audience. She continues with the line: “You used to call my phone, but you’ve been a little quiet lately.” This directly relates back to “Ghost Me,” as the subject has been avoiding contact. Furthermore, this continues the overarching theme found throughout the album where the singer acknowledges that she has hurt her friends and accepts that sometimes she is the problem. Named after the singer’s best friend, “Lauren” details the pain and suffering the muse has gone through. Humberstone reveals her unrelenting guilt and her desire to make amends for her mistake. The song relates back to “Ghost Me” further, as the previous track includes a voice memo at the end with Lauren herself relaying back a SpongeBob SquarePants quote. These unique connections make Paint My Bedroom Black not simply a compilation album of songs Humberstone has written over the years, but a well-designed project consisting of meticulous details that make this one of the best releases of 2023.


“Baby Blues”

“Baby Blues” is the most unique track on Paint My Bedroom Black. The intimate song is less than 90-seconds long, and involves only Humberstone’s angelic voice. The vocals utilize a layered effect that envelops the listener with the electronic atmosphere, intensified while listening through headphones. Despite having only three stanzas, the song still shares a detailed story of a person that makes all Humberstone's troubles go away. When she was down on her luck, and drowned and drunk, the subject was able to make her feel whole again. Just through a “flash of those baby blues,” she knew everything was going to be okay. This song is not only unique to the album, but also to Humberstone’s entire discography, making it stand out from all other tracks.


“Flatlining”

With an impressive production that brilliantly encapsulates the emotions behind the song, “Flatlining” easily puts itself in the top three of my favorite track on Paint My Bedroom Black. The song shares the aftermath of a relationship. One that was clearly dead on arrival and cannot be revived. Throughout the track, Humberstone uses clever lyricism to accentuate the detailed imagery of the song. Through lyrics such as, “We’ve got no chance of resuscitation” and “I pulled the plug and let the line go flat// Now there’s no coming back from that,” the singer takes advantage of this ingenious metaphor. Furthermore, the production starts off slow, but as the song progresses, the tempo increases and maintains this energy. This personifies the heart that kept beating, until it got out of control. The fast-paced instrumentation induces a feeling of anxiety in the listener, as they are placed into the mindset of the singer. The production even utilizes sound effects that emulate the sound of a heart monitor. The outro brings back the slower production, while this special sound effect continues to beat slower and slower, before the song completely fades out. This truly brings to life the entire imagery of the track that Humberstone was trying to convey, making “Flatlining” contain the most impressive production of the album.



“Elvis Impersonators”

Humberstone has revealed that “Elvis Impersonators” is her most personal song on Paint My Bedroom Black. Alongside a melancholic guitar, the singer shares her emotional thoughts about her sister moving to Tokyo for her studies. While Humberstone stayed behind for her career, she was left missing her sister and wishing they could go back to the time that they were still actively in each other’s life. The nostalgic track was written after the singer was in Japan for a show and was fortunately able to spend her time off with her sibling. She shares her experience in the city and the title comes from the two of them spotting Elvis impersonators, and it becoming a memorable experience for her. Furthermore, this is another track that contains lyrics which tie back to her debut single, “Deep End.” In the second verse and pre-chorus, Humberstone sings: “You always were the least happy child// I always thought that was unfair// And you always hid your sadness// With the smoothest slight of hand.” Tying these two songs together showcases that despite the fact that the singer has grown since her debut, she will still always love and support her sister, no matter what. “Elvis Impersonators” is an elegant track filled with bittersweet lyrics and a soothing production, making it another flawless addition to Humberstone's discography.


“Girl”

Once again, Humberstone makes references to songs previously played on the album. The intro contains her sweet voice singing the words: “Going. Through. Something.” This line immediately brings to mind the chorus in “Cocoon.” The singer feels lost and broken and does not feel like she can be who her loved one needs her to be. She is trying her best, because “in a perfect world” she would be their girl. She stresses that she “needs them next” to her. But this person looks right through her, like she does not even exist. In the bridge, she further emphasizes this with the lyrics: “Why don’t you look at me like that?// The way you’re looking at her.” She reveals that not only is she being ignored, but she is being overlooked for someone else. This person that she cherishes and feels she cannot live without does not reciprocate these feelings. It is a soul crushing experience that diminishes her self-esteem and makes her feel like she is not enough for them. The alt-pop production of “Girl” perfectly complements Humberstone’s angelic vocals, accentuating her ability to captivate audiences through deep lyrics and unforgettable melodies.


“Room Service”

The same day Humberstone released “Antichrist,” she also released “Room Service.” Despite their shared release dates, the two songs could not be more different. While the former discussed her fear of being the toxic one in a relationship, the latter is a sweet love ballad about feeling safe with the one you love. The song is led by a soft acoustic guitar while Humberstone’s mesmerizing vocals sing an ode to her lover. She reassures them that everything will be okay, as long as they are together. Instead of going out, they will stay in the comfort of a hotel room and order room service, “where no one could” reach them. They will avoid the distractions of the world outside and the stressors of life. Humberstone will be a comfort for her lover in the silence of a cozy hotel room. It is a sweet sentiment that sticks with listeners. With the vast differences between “Room Service” and “Antichrist,” Humberstone brilliantly chose the best tracks to represent the album.



Going into this project, I already knew I was going to love it. There has not been one song of Humberstone’s that I have disliked, and she easily became one of my most listened to artists by the end of 2022. From her unique synth beats to her authentic guitar riffs, her discography is incredibly diverse, and she has something for everyone. Fans of Bon Iver, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lorde will easily fall in love with her musical style. And anyone who loves artists that write their own music from their hearts will naturally fall for her candid songwriting. With Paint My Bedroom Black, Humberstone has once again solidified her spot as the industry’s next alt-pop queen.


Photo Holly Humberstone via X.com


Written By Karlee Skipper



*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.

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