On Water’s Here in You, Babehoven Settle In

After years of transience, Maya Bon and Ryan Albert have returned on their sophomore album with their richest, most grounded work yet.

Music Reviews Babehoven
On Water’s Here in You, Babehoven Settle In

Since its inception, Babehoven has moved around a lot. Never laying down roots too deep, the project of Maya Bon and Ryan Albert has called Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia and Vermont home as the years have worn on. Many of these are places known for their distinct-sounding music scenes. But, rather than roll around the country picking up traces of these regional sounds like a Katamari ball, Babehoven has become something all its own. For the past few years, the pair have settled down in New York’s Hudson Valley—a region of the Empire State that sprawls from Upstate all the way down to the New York City suburbs of Westchester, made up of verdant woodlands and small, picturesque cities and villages dotting the river. It isn’t home to any specific genre of music, but as more musicians age out of Brooklyn life, places like Kingston have become a trendy destination.

After finding their footing across a series of EPs from 2018 through 2021, Babehoven released their first full-length album, Light Moving Time, in 2022. Pulling in equal measure from slowcore and folk music, songs like “June Phoenix” and “I’m On Your Team” are made to feel like they could unfurl forever, and Bon’s voice seemed to melt into the LP’s airy arrangements. Still, despite being Babehoven’s strongest work to date, the record suffered from a graceful distance. Trying to fully embrace the music felt like trying to catch up to a mirage or recall a dream after waking; magical to behold, but ephemeral. You get the feeling that, if you tried to reach out and grab it, Light Moving Time would vanish into thin air in the palm of your hand. It’s understandable that a band so transient would make music that moves with a similar dreamlike quality, but now that they’ve landed, their music has as well.

Their sophomore effort, Water’s Here in You, is just as vivid as its predecessor, but far more resonant. Water’s Here in You is the first project release where Albert is credited as a co-writer, and the band’s developing partnership helps make the work feel fuller. From its first few moments, Babehoven arrives at the height of their powers. The album opener (and lead single), “Birdseye” is emotionally dense and its vocal melody stays with you. Bon sings about forgiving an ailing family member in their last moments, and though the “one long arrow pointed at you” she sings about is intended to focus that care on them, the line is delivered with a softly threatening intensity—a well-executed balance at soundtracking estrangement. Guitar strums loop hypnotically, giving the song a constant thrum of urgency that simultaneously contrasts Bon’s soft voice while underscoring the intent in her words.

The album’s title is pulled from “My Best Friend Needs,” a song written in response to a friend’s car accident. The titular water is the lifeblood within Babehoven and the track’s inspiration, connecting them as it does to the rest of the world. Bon first sings, “my best friend needs something more than I can give,” and the helpless feeling that can accompany empathy when tragedy strikes is under-discussed. But it’s refreshing to hear a band whose music is this emotionally literate tackle such experiences head-on. And, coming right after “Birdseye” in the tracklist, this admission from Bon feels even more potent.

Though songs like these, and the winsome “Lightness is Loud,” suggest a decisive pivot to a more traditional song structure, Babehoven also use much of Water’s Here in You to lean further into ambience. On “Millennia,’’ a deep, humming synthesizer accompanies Bon, and her point-of-view seems to shift to that of an omniscient figure looking out from above at a wrecked land—where she looks down at fires, floods, seas of garbage, Floridian stucco homes and the Cheesecake Factory. “Lonely Cold Seed,” too, is a chilling dose of hymnal indie folk, with a growling bass line stewing between the surface, cymbal crashes echoing out—and Bon’s voice more operatic than ever.

Water’s Here in You closes with “Ella’s From Somewhere Else,” a gentle song about two important figures in Bon’s life who share a name. Driven by acoustic guitar, the slowcore of Light Moving Time is resurrected most successfully here, as Bon dives into memories she has of her childhood dog and of Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams. Despite how much the band has moved around, it’s clear how important family and community are to both Bon and Albert. They may not have taken specific musical aspects from the communities they’ve wove their way through, but Water’s Here in You elicits just how many foundational connections were made with the real people existing in and around those places. “Ella’s From Somewhere Else” ends with Bon singing “You’re my brother, you’re my family / You mean everything to me.” In context of the song, it reads as love given to a specific few. As the last words of the album, though, it’s a lens we can use to look back at all that we’ve heard: Babehoven is a band with caring at its core. The work is palpable at even the most alien remove, so reach out and try to embrace these songs. You’ll find something solid.

Read our recent profile on Babehoven here.

Eric Bennett is a music critic in Philadelphia with bylines at Pitchfork, Post-Trash and The Alternative. They are also a co-host of Endless Scroll, a weekly podcast covering the intersection of music and internet culture. You can follow them on Twitter @violet_by_hole.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin