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The dreamy, self-reflective indie-folk starlet
Skullcrusher is the music project of Los Angeles-based artist Helen Ballentine. Raised in upstate New York, she moved to Southern California to attend university. Although she studied visual arts and initially got a job as a gallery assistant, she left that world behind in order to pursue her first love – music.
Ballentine learned to play piano at a young age and picked up guitar in high school, often performing covers at local coffee houses. She wrote her first song Places/Plans in 2019 and released it early the following year. Originally intended for her DJ project, Ballentine took the name Skullcrusher from the platform shoes she and her friends wore to raves.
Her self-titled debut EP arrived in July 2020, which also included the songs Day Of Show, Trace and Two Weeks In December. Two more singles – Farm and Lift (a cover from Radiohead’s OK Computer album) – were released that autumn.
All of her music has a soft, subtle, gauzy vibe and delicate vocals as well as a poignancy that feels like the act of reminiscing. Sounds like crickets, creaking floorboards and the ocean can often be heard on her tracks.
In February 2021, Ballentine unveiled Song For Nick Drake, honouring one of her favourite artists. BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac immediately selected the acoustic track as the Hottest Record In The World.
“Song For Nick Drake is about my relationship to the music of Nick Drake. It recalls moments in my life that are viscerally intertwined with his music,” said Ballentine. “The song is really my homage to music and the times I felt most immersed in it.”