Way Out West: Whitney Ballen

Posted: by The Editor

FFO: Waxahatchee, Michelle Blades, Fleetwood Mac


To be completely honest, I’m not often blown away by solo singer-songwriters accompanied by nothing but an electric guitar. I just prefer more body in music, and oftentimes these attempts at a “stripped down” sound, just come off as half-done to me. That being said, for me to be absolutely and completely floored by the bare-bones pairing, means that something must be really really right about said pairing, and I probably questioned my entire understanding of music a little bit because of it. That’s exactly what happened when I listened to Seattle, WA’s Whitney Ballen. Most often nothing more than ethereal vocals and an electric guitar, (maybe sometimes some muted bass drum thuds). Ballen has masted the marrying of the two. Her minimalistic approach to backing instrumentals enables her idiosyncratic and seraphic vocals to soak up every last bit of attention that they so much deserve. Though surely minimalistic, the accompanying instrumentals are simple, elegant, and moving. Ballen’s writing is vulnerable and genuine, giving the listener insight into the softest and most impotent corners of her life.

WB Album

All of this culminates in her latest release Being Here is Hard, a EP of honest admissions and complete surrender. There is a strength and empowerment in it though. Opening track “Give Up” tells of the breaking point we all find ourselves at; in which we give up on trying to fight for a partner who no longer seems to want us. Ballen eloquently expresses the act of desperation which also grants her, and us, autonomy. There is a poetic-ness to her contrast of surrender and strength, serves as a reminder to us that it’s ok be to be soft.


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