Dutch singer/songwriter néomí dives into the heartbreak, the healing, and everything else that went into her breathtakingly vulnerable and beautifully raw sophomore EP ‘after.’
Stream: “skipping stone” – néomí
Sometimes life kicks you in the back and it is our job to handle it with care. The way I handle it is by writing songs, so here we are.
Singer/songwriter néomí opens her sophomore EP with an impossible question: “How can I be your love, if you don’t want to hold me?” she cries into the ether, pain and passion coalescing within as she wrestles in the throes of a visceral, haunting heartache. So begins a record of beautifully raw reckonings; of a weathered soul coming of age and coming to terms with the often harsh truths that come with life and the seasons’ change.
Reality can often feel unforgiving, but we have it within us to navigate even the most perfect storms, and come out the other side even better than we were before. Such is the lesson, one might say, of after, a breathtakingly vulnerable EP whose intimate and impassioned songs dwell in life’s deep end, capturing heartache and healing, empowerment and personal growth as they happen for the artist in real time.
is it just me, doubting the unknown
great minds oh, great hearts, great souls
you told me, to carry myself
you taught me, how to carry myself
but how can i be your love
if you don’t want to hold me
how can i be your love
if you don’t want to see me…
maybe i’m your skipping stone
Released April 14 via [PIAS] Recordings, after is a gut-wrenching, soul-stirring tempest. The follow-up to néomí’s 2022 debut EP before finds Surinamese/Dutch folk-pop singer/songwriter Neomi Speelman keeping her head above water the only way she knows how: By spilling her soul in song.
An Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick, Speelman introduced her néomí project last year, quickly establishing herself as a vessel of tender, turbulent, and fragile folk: “néomí reminds all of us that there is boundless beauty to be found in life’s stillness: The spaces in-between,” we wrote in a review of her song, “eyes filled with sky.” “… She engages the senses with poetic, vivid lyrics channeled through a mesmerizing mix of piano, lightly finger-picked acoustic guitar, and soft, wondrous vocals.”
If before was a scene-setting ACT I, then after is néomí’s action-packed ACT II. The six-track collection captures a vast array of energies and emotions in its 21-minute run, finding néomí plunging into her own depths, sometimes holding on for dear life, sometimes looking for the light in the dark, and sometimes accepting the bitter truth of a painful situation.
“I wrote most of the EP after in the winter of 2020,” Speelman tells Atwood Magazine. “It was after some difficulties I went through in my life. It came alive in the times where COVID was still a thing. I had been sick for a while myself (non-COVID related) and had gone through some serious heartbreak experience as well. Times changed, I grew a little wiser and a little darker. You have those periods sometimes; this record was the answer to all these life experiences.”
“For the first time I realised I was getting older, and also had to face stuff more ‘grown-ups’ deal with,” she continues. “Sometimes life kicks you in the back and it is our job to handle it with care. The way I handle it is by writing songs, so here we are: Another EP was born. I for sure got to know myself a bit better going through these things, and I hope [listeners] can find understanding in listening as well. After some life events I began to see life from a different perception, maybe a bit heavier as you can tell. These songs stood by my side when I needed them, and I hope they will you serve others in the same way now as well.”
“My vision was to get it as real as possible,” she adds. “I didn’t want to go “big” or “experimental” yet. I just wanted to keep it as real as the stories are and that didn’t really change in the process as well.”
She titled the EP after because it was, quite literally, written “after” all of those life experiences she so powerfully expresses in her songs. “I think, well I hope, it captures a bit of maturity I’ve gained in writing,” she says. “Definitely not there yet, but as I’m growing older myself I hope my art will too. It captures my art in a new light, but a bit darker and more mature than before.”
That darkness is immediately palpable on the aforementioned opening track “skipping stone,” an intimate opener that rises from soft beginnings into a searing, smoldering fever dream. She hits her stride in the delicate depths of “red balloon,” an enchanting indie folk breakup ballad laden with visceral lyrics and beautiful vocal harmonies. “Knowing this will all be over soon, my heart rips open like a red balloon,” she sings in the song’s aching chorus. “Maybe one day, I’ll learn how to stay up.”
“My favourite now, is definitely ‘i could never leave,'” Speelman says, referring to the EP’s glistening, golden-hued finale. “I play this song live already and I just feel like I connect most with fans who are singing the song with me. It gives the song an extra dimension for me, like it went from 2D to 3D.”
i could not believe the sudden fear
though she was never made for promises
now go ahead and please give in
i know you never stop, lying
and it will never be the same again
darling don’t you leave before you try
you might be overwhelmed but so am i
darling don’t you leave before you try
i could never leave, stars falling
As for lyrical highlights, Speelman cites a particularly poetic line from her EP’s penultimate track, “oh my darling”: “Now the wind, keeps howling out your name, which resonates in my heart, everyday.“
Built out of both acoustic and electric instrumentation, the lush and lilting “oh my darling” is a particularly special track for Speelman, who explains that it’s about two past loves, neither of whom is in her life anymore like they once were. “It is quite funny that it’s a song where I sing about a ‘she’ and a ‘he’ at the same time,” she laughs. “So if people hadn’t figured out where I find love… now they know! This song is about being able to miss bits and pieces of someone, even though you’ve moved on, even though you’re ok with the choices that have been made – and most importantly, even though you’ve found another love. A love that you, of course, take seriously.”
“I believe that in all the love you find, you’ll take life lessons with you. Some good, some bad. So when I wrote this song, just walking down the street being reminded by nature what I missed from my girlfriend but found in my boyfriend at that time. If this makes any sense to you then great; if not just listen to the song and let yourself be carried away (I hope).”
oh my darling, how we tried to set our pace
now the wind keeps howling out your name
and resonates in my heart everyday
oh my darling, it looks like autumn leaves for you
like the change to our sudden solid lies
made me wonder, what love, could do
naked as we come is how we go
my body once was your holy home
maybe we have changed love
but don’t you see i’m holding on, holding on, holding on
to your love, my love
oh my darling, you left me tangled up
but don’t get me wrong i fell in love with this man
and i promised him, forever
A record heartbreak, growth, and healing, after is the intimate aftermath manifest in song.
néomí bears her heart in these six beautifully unadulterated, unabridged outpourings, reflecting on what it means to love, to let go, to grow, to nurture, to connect, and more. after takes these often inescapable life lessons and reminds us that they are universal – and that heartache is not an end, but the entranceway to a new beginning.
“I hope that, when people listen to it, they understand that they are not alone in feeling heavy sometimes,” Neomi Speelman shares. “It’s ok, and you will survive in the end. That’s what these songs taught me. They’ve shown me depth, but also growth, which is of great value I think. Putting these songs out in the world feels a bit like I’m walking on thin ice. Excited, but also a bit scary to give people such an insight of my thoughts.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside néomí’s after EP with Atwood Magazine as Neomi Speelman goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore EP!
Stream: ‘after’ – néomí
:: Inside after ::
I remember myself writing this with my dear friend Jesse Koch, while I had just fallen in love with someone. That someone was going through a difficult time, and in those moments of our relationship I felt like a skipping stone: picked up and thrown over the water, as if I was nothing to him. When I was younger my Dad and I would go down to the river in France to find those flat stones and he would try to teach me how to skip them over the water. I always got frustrated doing it and it’s the image that came to my mind when writing this song.
I felt so insecure, not about me or my lover individually but the love we had. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t allow me to let me in. It felt unfair because I was letting him in, and he just threw me away, like I was his skipping stone to sink somewhere in the lake.
“red balloon was written in the winter of 21. I’d moved into a new home together with my boyfriend and we were going through a tough time. He suggested we write a song together so we went to the piano, sat down having not discussed a lot, and just let the music speak. Little did we know we were writing a break-up song as we parted a couple of months later. Maybe we did know, but we were just very content at that moment creating a song together. I still love that man very much, but love is a very complicated thing, as you might understand. The song wasn’t finished so months later I decided to finish it up with a good friend of mine. I gave it a twist, as my heart literally burst like a red balloon at that time. Now I just hope that one day I’ll be lifted like a beautiful red balloon that didn’t rip open.
“The song is about knowing you love someone very much, knowing you want to be with someone still, knowing it doesn’t work out the way you want to, knowing that it might be over soon, trying to hold on, trying to let go, losing yourself and for that reason hoping that one day you can cope with the fact you let that one person go and feel gracious again without them.”
lies made out of love
“A super honest straight forward song, which is about not knowing what this life has to offer sometimes. It’s a bit of a reflection of last year. Having the feeling that lately honesty is nowhere to be found. And me trying to believe people will always make choices with a good loving heart, even in these rough times we all go through.”
“Oblivious is about living with an addict. But not just an alcohol/drug addict but also, and maybe especially, someone addicted to his art. It is about a man I feel unconditional love for but also; I will never understand the way he sees life and I accepted that. He once said, “I understand life, but will life ever understand me?” and that hit me.
“I drowned in my thoughts about this and came across the conclusion that being an artist in every way or form sometimes means that you are oblivious to a certain type of lifestyle, and that you can make people feeling oblivious when you’ve drowned in your art.
“It is a message to people that sometimes, the love you feel for someone cannot be explained. And that love will never come easily. And even though that is hard sometimes, it is beautiful as well.”
oh my darling
“I always talk about my broken heart right? Well in this song I sing about 2 past loves who aren’t in my life anymore like they were. It is quite funny that it’s a song where I sing about a ‘she’ and a ‘he’ at the same time. So if people hadn’t figured out where I find love…now they know haha! This song is about being able to miss bits and pieces of someone, even though you’ve moved on, even though you’re ok with the choices that have been made and most importantly, even though you’ve found another love. A love that you, of course, take seriously. I believe that in all the love you find, you’ll take life lessons with you. Some good, some bad. So when I wrote this song, just walking down the street being reminded by nature what I missed from my girlfriend but found in my boyfriend at that time. If this makes any sense to you then great, if not just listen to the song and let yourself be carried away. (I hope)”
I could never leave
“‘i could never leave’ is a track that lies very close to my heart. I think this song comes closest to my feelings than any other at this point. Every time I hear it or play it, it brings me back to this one love I had. I couldn’t go, I couldn’t move, I wanted to but also didn’t want to. It’s hard to describe but those who know this feeling know what I mean. It’s about a relationship shifting, like a big force, like stars falling in the sky. Self-development, acceptance but also grief at the same time. I really enjoyed the process of creating this song as well, together with my friend Will it was very natural and went so quickly because the story was just so clear and came flowing out of me. It didn’t need much time or thinking. It felt raw and honest, and I hope it comes across that way because it’s true.”
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© Stijn Mulder
:: Stream néomí ::