Heather Maloney will not be put into a box. She makes that abundantly clear from the start of her fourth full-length album, Soil in the Sky. Bursting from the somnolent instrumental opener “Waking Up From A Nightmare,” the Massachusetts-based artist gives the middle finger to the patriarchy and celebrates the multitudes that women contain: “One day you sing a little folk song / one day you want to fucking rock,” she snarls on the groovy standout track, “Enigma.”
As the rest of Soil in the Sky unfolds, Maloney remains unconfined. She moves confidently from a gritty rock track (“Oklahoma Lullaby”) to a light acoustic guitar-centered song (“What I Don’t Know, Too”) to a tender piano ballad (“Hangin On”) and sounds comfortable in each style.
“All in Your Name” — a song about a mysterious force that Maloney asserts can “make it okay” — grows from soft guitar strums to having a fervent orchestral accompaniment, and Maloney adjusts her voice accordingly, beginning in quiet tones before showing off her striking vocal abilities. Maloney maintains this versatility on “In Between” as she moves from sounding exasperated next to an infectiously playful beat to having bright clarity, all while, once again, rejecting being compartmentalized.
Maloney thoughtfully covers a wide range of topics on Soil in the Sky, but she always returns to love. On “We Were Together,” a timeless-sounding duet with Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, Maloney retraces the initial electric spark of a relationship. “You were the song I was singing / you were the booze in my bloodstream,” Maloney and Goldsmith sing in the honeyed bridge of this standout track. “What I Don’t Know, Too,” another charming love song, shines like the sun as it splits the trees that line the highway you barrel down en route to see your love. Flanked by accompanying vocalist Hayley Reardon, Maloney sounds giddy over the possibilities that a new relationship holds for a very charming listen.
On Soil in the Sky, Maloney roams free and demonstrates how multifaceted she is.