Review: Portland-based Whim brings her A game with the Small Infinity EP.

a2770408548_10Exploring the world of independent music is like embarking on an adventure. You can stick to the albums and songs you already know and love or you can be a brave explorer in search of the unknown. There’s a certain joy to be had in not knowing what you’re going to discover along the way, whether your findings are great or shampoo-drinkingly awful.

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my favourite impulse discoveries in recent memory, the works of a highly under-the-radar solo musician who goes simply by the pseudonym of Whim. Sarah “Whim” Whimsy is a folk musician from Portland who, by day, performs with her sister in their duo band tellingly-named She and Her Sister. The Small Infinity EP, Whim’s debut release, was brought forth on February 2nd.

Like the last group I reviewed, the music of Whim takes on an indie folk style, though this time sounding more commensurate to baroque pop groups like Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire or Iron & Wine in her use of instruments atypical to the standard indie folk subgenre. On top of ukulele and glockenspiel, Whimsy uses a hybrid instrument known as the banjolele, which I didn’t even know was an instrument prior to this review. The more you know, I suppose.

The Small Infinity EP contains four average-length songs, all of which centre around different lyrical themes. From somewhat dark and existential introspection to the giddy effects of a burgeoning crush, every song presented has something to say, and the lyrics are written with such conviction that it comes off completely unpretentious, and the emotions conveyed by the performer can easily transcend onto the listener, which you rarely see from contemporary artists anymore.

At first, the opening title track “Small Infinity” seemed really familiar, though I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Just something about the title and some of the lyrics reminded me of something. After doing a bit of research, it turns out I was right. This song is entirely based on the 2012 John Green novel The Fault in Our Stars, that one book that, for a full year after its release, was more popular than Jesus.

On top of the title coming directly from a line in the novel, the song vaguely recounts in a first person perspective how the protagonist Hazel Grace Lancaster’s relationship with Augustus Waters escalated almost suspiciously-quickly (“You talk to a stranger and suddenly you’re friends. You take your first step and now you’re halfway to the end before you even learn to break or bend…”), and the song has an overlying theme of time passing by quickly and to enjoy things while they last, which is a common theme in the novel as well.

Of the Small Infinity EP’s four tracks, my favourite is the third, “Brave”. While on a basic level, the song is about travelling and Whimsy’s love for it, after inspecting the lyrics further, I’ve found the lyrics to be more about cabin fever than anything, and a desperate wishing to go out and see the world, not even caring about specifically where. The talk of travelling and traversing “the winding road” sounds like more of a desire than anything. The most telling line of this interpretation is this line: “Now I know wherever this winding road takes me is exactly where I want to be…” So basically, they’re too used to where they’ve resided all this time, and want to go out and see the world more, to indulge themselves in a different culture and different atmosphere. It’s really compelling and relatable stuff.

On top of Whim’s impressive lyrical prowess, her singing voice is just gorgeous. She reminds me a tad of a deeper-voiced Ingrid Michaelson, whom sounds like she could’ve been a direct influence. Whimsy never feels the need to oversing anything, which, combined with the fairly minimal instrumentals, makes for a very enjoyable dynamic that’s really rather relaxing.

All in all, the Small Infinity EP is a lot better than I thought it was going to be. That isn’t to say I thought it was going to be bad, I just didn’t expect it to be quite on this level. The lyrics are very well-done, the vocals are amazing, the stripped-down instrumentals are very well-implemented, and the EP just has a great sense of expertise throughout. This EP came to us from the mind of someone who really knew what she was doing.

The Small Infinity EP is available to stream for free on Whim’s Bandcamp page, or you can purchase it for $4.00, a dollar per song. It’s definitely not an album worth passing over, though unfortunately, it probably will be. To keep up to date with Sarah Whimsy, you can like her page on Facebook or follow her WordPress blog.

I’m definitely looking forward to more releases from Whim in the future. If she can use her songwriting talent to explore more and more territory (different lyrical themes, a use of more instruments, maybe some genre fusion, etc.), then I could see Whimsy making a name for herself in the independent scene.

Until next time, don’t forget to be awesome.

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About Jess Casebeer

The only music critic in the Pacific Northwest, Jess Casebeer is the youngest member of the NorthWest Music Scene crew at age 16. Open to most genres out there, he greatly values reviews that are informative, critical and entertaining. He's kind of like an innerspring mattress: firm, yet comfortable in its own right. Follow him on Twitter @JessCasebeer.