"I need to get out of the house today to try my face out on strangers and if anyone's to look my way, I'll latch onto their gaze, demanding answers."
Very few albums understand emotional blunting as well as Helena Deland's Someone New. Being stuck comes in all shapes and forms, whether it'd be feeling trapped within nostalgia or the patterns of one's mind. In Someone New, the lyrics fill each possible form and texture in a confessional prose. Even the comfort of one's mind, a supposed shelter that we seek refuge in, becomes inhabited with a blur of repetition and reluctance. When Deland tries to look inwards to find solace within her own company, she realizes that she is trapped. "If I could have every thought / As though for the first time / I'd never get sick of the patterns of my mind but I am stuck." she admits. This style of writing makes up the core principle in her lyrics, as she walks through the darkness to find the humanness in her discomfort with most of her story-telling. There is no diabolization in her manner, but a mere acceptance of her state. It's as raw and personal as it gets. The music video for the track proves the essence of its introspective nature in a similar elegance. She sits still, looking out into the distance, looking puzzled yet unreactive, not being able to take a step further towards wherever she is looking.
The state of disconnect transforms into an idea of reinvention over the course of the song and the album. "If things go my way / I'll stay in this room / Where again I want to lay / Kissing someone new / Who tells me / Something pretty /So that I, too can feel like someone new." she sings. The lyrics that comes before "What if I told you, it'll just end the same? / And then turned to you / Showed you my game / You'd believe I'm stuck." emphasizes the need of acknowledgment. It gives off the impression that Helena has indeed, tried this method before. The concept of giving birth to another version of yourself who creates room for new ideas to bloom in your mind is a repetitive theme throughout her album, especially with the song Pale.
The concept of reinvention falls flat and devoid of meaning as soon Deland steps out of her own mind into an uncharted territory. "I'm used to being the actress, Surprised in mid-practice, rehearsing love til it's real." she admits in Mid-practice. The transformation that she seeks out gets overshadowed by mimicry. It's not a question of redefining who you are to regain power over your own mind, but imitating a state of newness to escape it. She might have trouble attaining gratuitous love and a sense of serenity but she will continue to play the role of an actress who does. Isn't that the most relatable aspect of all, trying to pigeonhole ourselves according to the preferred realities of others to feel some sort of acknowledgment? Playing a part redeems the weight of wandering through the dark tunnels of introspection for a while. The silence of the mind found though thinking about other people instead of your self-inflicted wounds is maybe, the biggest comfort of all.
The duality of the conflicting images that she perceives herself to be and the one that she portrays takes an emotional toll on her in Dog. "With every little thing you want to do / It might not be you for me but it's me for you / And I hate to be your dog but I have everything to gain." she sings. In 20th Century Women, Greta Gerwig stops Billy Crudup mid-kissing and tells him that she needs a story and proposes that they use a fantasy to have sex. "Can't I just be myself?" he asks. Greta Gerwig nods her head no. She asks a similar question in the song, thinking "Who gets to be your mirror if I'm a nail on the wall?" She doesn't have room to be herself but to be taken out for walks with a leash accompanied by an occasional pat on the head.
In Smoking at the Gas Station, Helena sings "I need to get out of the house today to try my face out on strangers and if anyone's to look my way, I'll latch onto their gaze, demanding answers."
I first listened to Someone New during quarantine in a state of heavy depression and detachment. I myself wanted to get out of the house and try my face out on strangers. I've lived everyday with myself, a thing that I thought I was doing ever since I was born. However, in a state of cutting loneliness, your depression takes up another form. The sadness that resides within one's self embodies a human-like shape, one that you can see in the mirror that can almost be traced with the tips of your finger. Over the course of your initial recognition of this unknown evil,
you acknowledge that your reflection is indeed, a rotten version of what you know yourself to be, one that you can no longer recognize. You do your make-up, not do it at all, cut your hair and bleach it to implant newness to your loneliness that stares right at you in the mirror like second skin. The new face doesn't provide relief and strangers are invited for some input. In deep with questions of self-doubt and self-detachment, you cling to anyone who would acknowledge your presence, even if they are passing strangers you cross at night.
Someone New is the perfect manifestation of the myth of reinvention and how it blurs the lines between the self and the ideal state. It lingers long after it's finished and challenges the listener to look in the mirror, however hard it may be.