April 4th, 2018 | Album reviews

Outside Insight

Shattered glass, skitters, clatters, the hollow bark of a dog and a pitch-shifting voicemail alive with familial love in a Guatemalan accent—these are just a few of the mosaic tiles Callie Ryan has fitted together to render the fertile landscape of Health. “Are you comfortable?” she pleads across her opening track, and in her tender, longing vocals, a deeply feminine theme unself-consciously unfurls. Over the course of Health’s nine songs, Ryan spins personal vignettes into life: the tactile imagery of rosewater dripping down thighs, the lucid dream of the prayers of a woman still hearing herself as a little girl, the painful adult affliction of simply missing one’s mother, the presentation of one’s guts to an outsider and the eager request for feedback. The outright power of these pieces sneaks up subtly, perhaps best typified on “Orange Notes”—the aforementioned voicemail coos, “We love you so much … and don’t worry, OK? We’re here,” over a starry little melody, and the lump in my throat swells into an irrepressible emotional reaction to the pain of growth. Ryan’s voice—in reverse, in multiple languages, in various octave ranges—is like an ever-expanding plant sending tendrils in every direction, reaching up, out and beyond the fertile samples she’s nurtured. Health is a garden, not just of remedies but of memories, too.

Christina Gubala