Helen Ballentine’s indie-folk project Skullcrusher continues to come up here in early 2021, releasing her first new material of the year today (Feb. 1). Out now via Secretly Canadian, standalone single/video “Song for Nick Drake” follows the June 2020 release of Ballentine’s self-titled Skullcrusher debut EP, as well as her October single “Farm” b/w “Lift,” the latter track a Radiohead cover.
“‘Song for Nick Drake’ is about my relationship to the music of Nick Drake,” Ballentine explains in a statement. “It recalls moments in my life that are viscerally intertwined with his music, specifically times spent walking & taking the train. The song is really my homage to music and the times I felt most immersed in it.”
“Song for Nick Drake” itself is one to get lost in, as Ballentine recalls quiet times in a bookstore and on a train over dreamy acoustic chords, with gossamer synth and banjo backing. “I walked home alone / With your song in my head / Finally understanding something,” she sings, her voice layering over itself as the song crescendoes, as if to reflect the force of her epiphany. The video, meanwhile, consists of home video-esque footage of Ballentine walking an empty train platform, then streets and sidewalks, intercut with pencil-shaded animation (by Jeremy Reynoso) of same.
Like a warm blanket on a cold day, “Song for Nick Drake” is particularly resonant in these solitary times, not to mention as deceptively complex and effortlessly hypnotic a song as anything Skullcrusher has released so far—here’s hoping it’s a harbinger of new material, as opposed to just a one-off. Buoying that hope is a press release’s mention that “Los Angeles-based Ballentine spent the Fall back on the East Coast, in rural New York State, working on new material with her Skullcrusher collaborator Noah Weinman.”
Paste was quite fond of Skullcrusher, it’s safe to say: We hailed it as one of 2020’s best EPs, with Danielle Chelosky writing in her review, “The up-and-coming singer/songwriter creates her own world within these four songs, and it’s as endearing as it is heartbreaking.” There’s no word yet on when we can expect Ballentine’s debut full-length, but you can bet we’ll be among the first to tell you once there is.
Watch the lyric video for “Song for Nick Drake” below, or stream the track right here.