Holly Humberstone Frees Herself From the Curse of Perfection in 'work in progress'

Indie pop darling Holly Humberstone is back, sooner than expected, with her work in progress EP, which functions as both a gift to the fans and an ode to vulnerability. For an artist who’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist, the release of this project challenges Humberstone to be okay with putting out a few songs simply because she wants to, instead of overthinking their purpose. Following her 2023 critically acclaimed debut album, Paint My Bedroom Black, and the pre-released EP single, “Dive,” it’s clear that the London-based rising star is not slowing down any time soon.

If there were one word to describe this body of work, it would certainly be “vulnerable.” Being open in her songwriting is a Humberstone staple, but because of the causal nature of this EP, it’s never been more apparent. The intro track “Dive” serves as a bright, flashing warning sign of every red flag the young singer-songwriter feels she has. It’s a cautionary message for those investing time and energy into a relationship with her, but deep down it showcases Humberstone's innate fear of disappointing others. Vulnerability is not the only skill our narrator has mastered, she also loves to sprinkle in pop culture references and gets extra cheeky in this track, choosing to include a snippet of an iconic fight from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s a fun moment for listeners but also a nod to her own toxic habits of self-isolation and escapism.

While “Dive” was a list of personal red flags, the title track “Work in Progress” is a love song about preferring a partner who she can attempt to fix. Over a pulsing heartbeat and a classic guitar strum, Humberstone sings about how she prefers someone “a little out of focus,” because she knows what it’s like. The switch-up from the previous track is what makes it extremely realistic, embodying the irony of loving traits in another person that you hate about yourself. With a memorable outro of stunning harmonization paired with Humberstone’s signature dark indie-pop soundscape, “Work in Progress” is a standout moment.

The '80s-inspired “Down Swinging” picks up the pace and continues to offer new perspectives on the same topic. Instead of focusing on how her “toxic” habits may affect others, this track is about how it affects her daily life. Through recalling specific stress dreams and pointing out how reality TV as a coping mechanism may be doing more harm than good, she acknowledges that her actions have consequences. But, the heart of “Down Swinging” is in its message of resilience. Humberstone speaks on writing the track, “I felt like wallowing in self pity and then we wrote the chorus which says ‘I can take it, give me hellfire’. I constantly need to give myself little reminders like that to push myself through the bad days - not to let my brain win and to not go down without a fight.”

In the EP's final track, “Easy Tiger,” the rising star touches on her gratitude for those who know exactly what to do and say when she’s at her lowest. Themes of isolation and depression are found throughout Humberstone’s discography of brutally honest songwriting, so it’s a familiar note to end on. This simple guitar ballad describes the feelings of self-hatred that creep in as the depressive episode rages on. But more importantly, it’s about those who will say, “Easy Tiger” and take you on a drive because they know it’s the perfect way to help you break out of your depression “fortress.”

Humberstone is a special songwriter and work in progress matches the lightning-in-a-bottle artistry she’s shared with the world. Instead of agonizing over the perfect time to release, she’s choosing to let go of control and let the music lead the way. The effects of this exposure therapy approach seep through each song, making them more raw and relatable in a way that’s hard to achieve with a “proper” album cycle. We can’t wait to hear what else pours out from the depths of this prolific artist’s brain, hopefully for years and years to come.

Listen to work in progress below:

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