First Impressions: AH HA by Abby Huston

Slated for release this Friday (October 22nd), Abby Huston’s sophomore effort is an intriguing blend of bedroom pop and hip-hop beats, with a dash of jazz sprinkled in. Huston’s hushed vocals often waft in on a melodic breeze, tumbling like a leaf in the wind and, at times, coming precariously close to floating out of ear’s reach, all while the tunes unfold like non-linear spacetime jams. Think Sylvia’s “Pillow Talk” sans the sauciness and strings, if that makes sense, but with the same level of intimacy. It’s akin to listening to an audio diary. Dub it ASMR rock.

The Richmond-based singer, songwriter and sculptor shapes their songs the way they do clay (presuming, of course, that they work with clay), pushing, pulling and kneading the music so that it supports the whispered lyrics, with Huston’s vocals barely decipherable and, yet, oddly hypnotic. (It reminds me to an extent of early R.E.M., when Michael Stipe’s vocals were buried in the mix.) Perhaps because of that, the non-hushed enunciation in “Higher” is an anomaly that’s both welcome and jarring. Another high point is “Home,” which opens with Huston accompanied only by an electric guitar.

As I said up top, AH HA is an intriguing (and, at 24 minutes, short) set o’ songs that had me hitting repeat when I played it. The nine tracks remind me of the remixes some artists release after their albums have run their course, with horns, stray chords and upended rhythms jelling into something new. (Lucy Rose’s Something’s Changing: The Remixes and Paul Weller’s “Fat Pop Remix” spring to mind.) Except, of course, these tracks are all new.

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