REVIEW: Steady Holiday - Under the Influence

Kelly Kirwan

Dre Babinski has a murmuring voice that drifts over her lo-fi, dream-daze pop melodies. With an affinity for string arrangements, she adds deep, bluesy lines to her reveries, each strum or pluck like a watercolor brushstroke across a blank portrait. Babinksi has a head-in-the-clouds sound, sweet and a touch hazy, whose lyrics are lightly tethered to the earth for their darker tint. "I cheat, I blame, I piss away / But here you stay, oh what to make?" she coos airily on "Your Version of Me," ruminating on how she appears in another's eyes, and how she's come to see herself. The world of her imagination may be lush and inviting, but at times a wind picks up and rustles through—a chill that momentarily draws you away from any sort of rose-colored spell, affirming Babinksi isn't all pleasantries wrapped in a Luna Lovegood pitch. There's more to her than that.

Before striking out on her own under the moniker Steady Holiday, Babinski was a touring ensemble musician. She rounded out LA-based band Dusty Rhodes and opened for indie mainstay Fitz and the Tantrums, before pairing up with the producer Gus Seyffert (who has lent a hand to artists like Beck and The Black Keys). With an arsenal of personal material, Babinksi cultivated her solo debut, Under the Influence, and has delivered nine tracks of nightingale singing and gentle, swirling melodies. Babinski revealed to Stereogum that the title was inspired by the 1974, woman-in-the-attic-esque film A Woman Under the Influence—which (spoilers ahead) ends with a woman's stifling domesticity funneling her into a psychiatric ward. Babinksi drenches these more ominous tones in the honeyed twirls of her instruments and voice, catching the familiar, eerie quality of a child’s music box twinkling in the night.

Tracks like "When I See Color" highlight Babinski’s string section prowess, featuring an acoustic plucking and sliding before her lightweight voice drifts in, “Do you ever put something on a list just to check it off / Simple pleasures like decent weather / Do you ever set alarms in your sleep so you don’t have to dream?” It’s full of wandering thoughts that at times roll into deeper, more grounded observations, because as much as Babinksi has a sweet trill that could comfort an inconsolable child, her daydreams are not cartoonish.

Her album’s titular track has a more sauntering mood (rightly so), not exactly ominous, but perhaps more on the brink of being carnal. She takes her time with each line, drawing out syllables to higher pitches, particularly the line, “What to do?” which stretches into the next stanza. “Trust me I’m a decent animal / You have to tell me when I’m full,” Babinski sings loftily,  before ending, “You may choose between yourself or me / Who will destroy you?” The words sink in so easily that you don’t immediately understand the proposition. And then you realize, it’s her influence you’re under.