Whitney Ballen, Falls (out now, self-released, whitneyballen.bandcamp.com)
Whitney Ballen’s voice isn’t for everybody, but for those who love a quirky tone that’s both sharp and sweet, it’s lovely. Inspired by her hometown of Fall City, Wash., this sophomore release explores both personal struggles and roving adventures through the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Layered over fuzzy guitar, explosive yet controlled percussion, and calculated reverb, the result is a dreamy, at times atmospheric collection of tracks that resonate with the heart. Falls is a haunting, trickling love letter, but for whom it is intended is not quite disclosed. On tracks like “Olympia, Your Bridges” and “Torn,” it seems the recipient could be an actual person. On others, it feels as if Ballen’s subject is Mother Nature. Ballen’s most romantic tune is “Rainier,” a nearly three-minute tearjerker: “Trying my best not to call you/I want to tell you ’bout my coffee/I want to send you pictures of Mount Rainier/I wish you were here.” Ballen is no stranger to the DIY scene, and its rawness is felt throughout. As are her interests: “Wacky, creative mashup poetry; feedback forever; cassette-tape releasing; [and] bedroom-playing bands are what I like to listen to and see live,” says the songwriter. It’s this messy urgency and passion that drives this untidy yet wholly relatable release.