On Babehoven’s Bandcamp page, there is a collection of five demos (under the name Sleep) that could accurately be described as “lo-fi.” The note below the songs makes no bones about it: “Written and recorded... using GarageBand and a 2011 MacBook Pro microphone,” it says.
However rough those five cuts may be, they accomplish the most important thing when it comes to assessing an indie pop artist: You can hear, clear as day, that songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Maya Bon knows her way around a beautiful melody. Several of them, actually.
Bon’s earworm melodies get the boost they deserve on Babehoven’s Sleep EP, released this week by Portland indie label Good Cheer Records. It features the same five songs, but updated with full band arrangements courtesy of bassist Skyler Pia and drummer Elias Williamson. Together, they provide a solid foundation for Bon’s songs.
The EP is bookended by two upbeat numbers: The opening title track rides along a skittering rhythm, which nicely contrasts Bon’s overcast alto and her plainspoken lyrics about love, loss, and all the stuff in between. “Maybe I should know better/Maybe I’m dumb,” she sings. “I think I should know better/I think I’m dumb.” Later, however, she makes plans to move on by taking a nap and shopping online rather than dwelling on the relationship.
Closing the EP is “Five Times,” a jaunty, gentle shuffler that finds Bon repeating the phrase “I’m flawed” one minute, and “I’m strong” the next. The rhythmic work of Pia and Williamson is particularly potent, giving the tune the backbone it deserves.
In between are a trio of slower songs that showcase not only Bon’s melodic gift, but also her command of dynamics. The best in the bunch is the unhurried crescendo of “Out of the Country,” but “Bathtub” and “LA” both start in one place and end far away, with lots of catharsis and confusion in between. Here, Babehoven sounds something like a cross between indie pop heroes Allo Darlin’ and heart-on-sleeve folkie Julien Baker. That’s a high compliment, but Sleep indicates Babehoven’s potential is sky-high.