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This article appears in other versions of the April 10, 2017, issue, with the headline "Follow Ahead."
It rained in New York last May 6, and music completists felt the downpour the heaviest. New albums from James Blake, Skepta, Death Grips, Anohni, and Kaytranada all came at once, a spread of vivid artists who had risen from self-contained music pockets as captains of focussed styles and subcultures. "Probable Depths" arrived more quietly that same day, and the cassette might have been lost in the spring shower if it hadn't been for the loyal followers of Nandi Rose Plunkett, a singer and producer known as Half Waif. College-radio jocks and B-side bloggers picked up "Turn Me Around," the record's agile second single, and dished out praise that the ethereal pop song wholly deserved but was too opaque to earn more widely; like Plunkett's path to performance, the track is a study of pivots. A mournful choral intro gives way to a hand-clap bounce fit for a Rihanna song—"I don't even know what I'm here for," Plunkett sings, never letting on where "here" may be.
The twenty-eight-year-old has rarely played it straight. The daughter of an Indian refugee from Uganda and an Irish-American, she grew up in Williamstown, Massachusetts, versed in traditional bhajans and Celtic pop. As a music major at Kenyon College, she inhaled varied forms—musical theatre, classical, folk, world music—and mastered few, instead working through her own experiments with upstart bands and nursing solo material by night. Her ideas jelled best with Evan Stephens Hall, and she joined his band Pinegrove. The group made their way to northern New Jersey after graduation, and became immersed in a close-knit music community that had produced bands like Ducktails and Real Estate—after crashing in Hall's childhood bedroom for a summer, Plunkett found the confidence to pipe up on her own once again.
With Pinegrove, Plunkett helps to broaden the band's blooming alt-country rooted deep in the New Jersey woodlands; as Half Waif, she makes room for globe-twirling prism pop in search of a home. At Silent Barn on April 6, she'll play songs from "form/a," the latest Half Waif EP (which she produced herself), swaying between the electronic bass of new tracks like "Night Heat" and the light step of "Turn Me Around," nudging everyone near her into motion. ♦