Coming off a fantastic EP, We Fell In Love At A Party, Ha Vay, an independent artist from San Francisco, California, describes her artistry as an “ethereal indie sleaze,” reflected through all her work. This thread seamlessly connects We Fell In Love At A Party’s otherworldly poignance, especially my personal favorite Drunk as Gods, with the overall indie-sleaze brilliance of her new album, ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE.
Combining the alternative pop influences of Lana Del Rey, Marina, and The Diamonds, Florence + The Machine, and drum beats ranging from punk to hyperpop, Ha Vey produces an album that merges the best of the early-aughts counterculture with a surrealist, dream-like production style unique to today’s alternative artistic movement.
The album opens with a sense of mania on The Prettiest Girl, combining light yet hard-hitting vocals with a punk drum beat, reminiscent of Florence + The Machine’s Kiss With A Fist and Blondie’s Call Me. The transition of “I’ll burn this place to the ground/and you’ll love me more than ever now” to the French “Je veux danser avec toi” – which translates to “I want to dance with you” – is a brilliant demonstration of the album as a whole as the urgency with which the song flows perfectly illustrates the entire journey Ha Vay takes with ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE.
The Prettiest Girl bleeds into Ohmygod which solidifies Ha Vay’s mystique allure as a feminine presenting person, toying with the manic pixie dream girl trope, but the song, Morocco, adds depth to this trope. There’s an interesting push and pull between Ha Vay and her elusive love. The way she flips between being the chaser and the one chased throughout ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE is a powerful and effective way of adding depth and dimension to the experience of being wanted, but not wanted enough.
Poetry in The Margins, which is the fourth track on the album, is perhaps my favorite song on the album and builds upon the idea of her partner’s elusive and enigmatic nature, fearing the depth of their feelings. She describes herself as “sunlight,” and her muse as “moonshine,” who she thinks was “born to die.” This song is beautiful and poignant in the way it describes the temporary, fragile, and ethereal nature of love. It is a perfect representation of the entire album.
During 26 April, Ha Vay is trying to reconcile with losing her muse, oscillating between wanting to move on and being caught in her misery, in spite of herself. At the beginning of the title track, Romance Hyperactive, Ha Vay positions herself as a vixen in the vein of making her muse jealous. However, by the end, the tone begins to shift as she sets her sights on someone new. This image takes hold in Sharpen Your Teeth in which she reclaims her power. The muse is realizing what they have lost, while she realizes what they have taken from her. There is, again, this interesting push and pull between Ha Vay and her muse – only this time, she is reclaiming the power they stole through vengeance.
The next song, Babe!!! is an incredible tribute to queer love. Continuing with an ethereal motif, Ha Vay describes her lover as a babe with a “lavender glow,” calling back to the influence of Sappho, who often referenced women adorned in flowers. Babe!!!’s queer romance framed as an act of defiance, unapologetic, and loving in a miserable world.
The album closes on You Should’ve Known Better, which starkly contrasts the muse of the first half of the album with the healthy love of the latter songs. She finds independence and recognizes her divinity. After so much yearning and turmoil, she finds herself believing she is “going to be fine.” This is an excellent way to close out the album, leaving the listener feeling empowered. It is a cinematic close to a beautiful journey.
I am obsessed with ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE. Ha Vay’s light vocals floating over heavier rock-inspired instrumentals are a perfect representation between the ethereal, surreal nature of unhealthy relationships and the inevitable heartbreak that ensues. Ha Vay’s ROMANCE HYPERACTIVE tells a tragically beautiful story of growth and empowerment, and is a masterful testament to finally feeling free.