EP REVIEW: Halflives – ‘Inferno’

Artwork for Halflives’ ‘Inferno’

It shouldn’t be underestimated how lucky Linda Battilani has been with regards to her career path with Halflives. The output has certainly been spotty—both in release timing and in quality—but she’s surreptitiously landed in a position with some real potential benefits. When a sizable swathe of female alt-pop soloists have risen among alternative’s most hotly-tipped, it’s the most tangible opportunity that Battilani has had…maybe ever. After all, she made the jump from ‘proper’ pop-rock to alt-pop before it was all the rage, now thrown a bone by the scene seemingly forming around her own experience.

On top of that, the benefit of that experience is certainly prominent. More so than it’s ever been, perhaps; on previous EPs where Battilani’s choices often felt like circling the drain and waiting to happen upon some footing, Inferno properly feels like the result of a project growing from past stumbles. It’s just generally a lot stronger, a product of simultaneously being lifted by a rising tide, and showing greater prowess compared to some ropey fare in the peripherals. Thus, it’s not difficult to say that,since fully transitioning to alt-pop—and certainly since reframing as a solo endeavour—this is the best full piece of work to sport Halflives’ name.

Still, the cracks can pop up. Nowhere near as invasively as in prior outings thankfully, as their mainly relegated to the closer Oblivion in how its structure as a piano-ballad-cum-dark-synth-cum-pop-rock miasma is hardly an appealing end goal. But whereas something similar could’ve been the norm for Halflives in the past, Inferno is more focused by a factor of miles. And at no point does that require Battilani to throw out her penchant for pop-rock diversity either; it’s just way more streamlined and sharp. Even on sorry mom x, a shoo-in to be crushed under a lumbering, heavy-footed hook in the majority of circumstances, there’s a simple undeniability that bypasses anything like that easily.

Just in general, Inferno isolates and ramps up the best parts about Halflives, in what’s a much more satisfying EP package for it. What’s more, Battilani has clearly grasped more tightly on how to work this within its means, shy of bottomless pop-rock budgets but never at too much of a disadvantage for it. And compared to how this kind of thing often turns out—i.e. the umpteenth iteration of a trap beat and a dry-cracker pop-punk guitar over it—there’s thankfully some more going on here. everybody knows it flexes legitimate pop-rock chops fuelled by some decent firepower underneath; meanwhile, Dynamite’s Avril Lavigne-esque turn is where the most consistent mileage could percolate from, between a solid grasp on super-modern alt-rock production and a genuinely killer hook to boot. Even EVERYTHING SUCKS!, the clearest proponent of the aforementioned pop-rock scaffold, strives to surge and grind in its guitar a little more to scratch deeper (even if a bit more roar to said guitar wouldn’t hurt at all).

So on the whole, definitely a big step up. Where Halflives have frequently felt distanced from some of the scene’s more key players, Inferno represents a step that comes much nearer to closing the gap. After all, Battilani as a personality isn’t far off from many of those bigger players, as far as lyrical frankness and openness goes. It’s seldom revolutionary, but it’s sold with ironclad conviction that easily masks her weaknesses as a technical singer. Even though she doesn’t belt very well, it’s easily compensated by some tangible humanity, especially on Dynamite as a queer love song that’s definitely the most key piece of personality that Battilani has shown off in her work.

Suffice to say, Inferno shines pretty for it, and more resolutely than any Halflives release before it. It’s absolutely the closest thing to a finished article under Battilani’s belt, where pop-rock impulses are focused to their greatest degree yet, and the payoff is comparatively staggering. This is the standard that Halflives have been building to for a while, now leaping past the tribulations that came in the past for a genuinely sound, genuinely solid package. An album of similar standard is the final step towards giving Battilani the most convincing set of legs she’s ever had, and she’s by far the closest she’s ever been now.

For fans of: PVRIS, Against The Current, Charlotte Sands

‘Inferno’ by Halflives is released on 30th June.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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