The Good: Awesome voice, Good lyrics
The Bad: Exceptionally short, Instrumentally simplistic
The Basics: These Walls introduced the world to Heather Nova/Heather Frith and illustrated the spark of incredible potential she would develop!
When I was in college, I discovered the musical works of Heather Nova. Like so many fans, I became a fan of Nova’s works when I first heard “Walk This World.” Less than two years later, I had the opportunity to meet Nova at a Lilith Fair concert and it was a pretty incredible experience for me. Since then, I have tracked down every album of Heather Nova’s and it was years ago that I managed to track down the (apparently) now out-of-print These Walls.
These Walls was the debut EP of Heather Nova and it was an album that had several different titles, but identical compositions. Whether it was called Heather Frith, These Walls, or The First Recording, the content of the EP is the same. Like so many first albums, These Walls is only a hint of the potential of the artist who appears on it, but even so the album shows well the strength of Heather Nova. Even on These Walls, Nova exhibits an amazing voice and incredible lyrics-writing skills. What the album lacks is a musical sophistication to make the fact that it is only four tracks worth the expense of hunting it down.
With only four songs, These Walls is very much the creation of Heather Nova. She wrote all four songs, provides the acoustic guitars that dominate the instrumentals and is lead vocals on all of the songs. The only major creative credit she did not have on These Walls is the credit as a producer.
These Walls is a collection of four vocally-driven songs that are quiet, slow, musical poems. Vocally, Heather Nova exhibits an amazing soprano voice and a decent lung capacity. While the title track is a little more up-tempo than the others, the other three are slow and require Nova to hold notes for a decent time. This makes the album short, but entirely melancholy and the sadness in Nova’s voice is palpable.
Instrumentally, this album is very typical for a guitar-based album. This is very much a “one woman and a guitar” album. The ballads are soft and quiet and underproduced.
On These Walls, the songs still exhibit a strong sense of beautiful poetics. Opening her first EP with the lines “In your heart, there are oceans / In your heart, there are flowering trees / Look inside, it lives inside these walls,” (“These Walls”), Nova exhibits a strong sense of self. Her songs on These Walls are universally introspective and the album comes across as a very short breakup album.
Arguably the best song on the album is “Flying As She Falls.” A ballad about finding strength, even in the midst of failure, Nova sings “She dresses by the window / Finds reflection in the pane / She looks towards the winter / And her hair falls around her like rain / She's sighing with September / She would like to run and hide / She's wrapped up in confusion / She unfolds like paper dolls / But she's flying as she falls” (“Flying As She Falls”). This is one of the songs that illustrates just how great her sense of imagery is and her ability to put it well in a musical storysong.
Ultimately, These Walls is essential for the fans of Hather Nova, but hard to justify the expense of. The best song is “Flying As She Falls,” the low point is the somewhat simplistic “New Love.”
For other Heather Nova album reviews, please be sure to check out:
Live From The Milky Way
The Jasmine Flower
300 Days At Sea
For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing.
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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