EP REVIEW: Hope D – ‘Cash Only’

Let Hope D Transport You Through Her Heartache With Debut EP ‘Cash Only’

Words by Emily Hollitt {Malina Claire} + {Emily Hollitt – Content Writer}

For the last few years Brisbane singer-songwriter Hope D has been quietly garnering the attention of tastemakers from all corners of the musical spectrum. With a unique way of creating captivating and confessional tracks that resonate with a range of listeners, the young artist has kept herself busy. She made waves at BIGSOUND 2019, Splendour in the Grass and Laneway Festival as well as winning the QMusic Emerging Artist Award and the Carol Lloyd Award designed to bring female-identifying and non-binary artists to the forefront earlier this year.

On Friday (Feb 5th) she released her debut EP ‘Cash Only’. Although the project has been in the works for the past 3 years, the 7 track EP really came together over the past 12 months throughout our cashless new reality. The introspective collection analyses themes of breaking hearts and having your heart broken, first love, sexuality, addiction and being unapologetically and authentically you. Like an audible diary, the collection of songs perfectly capture all of Hope’s emotions; as if you experiencing the events of all the songs with her.

Addict opens the EP with attitude. Jangly, almost off-pitch guitars loop over a steady drum beat as she articulates her lyrics with an edge. The vocal pronunciation is almost spoken and rhythmic, drawing the attention of the listener to her messages.

“They say I’m addicted to the chips I can’t eat. They say I’m addicted to the drinks I don’t need. They say I’m addicted to pills that help me sleep. But I can’t sleep unless I have them so does that make me an addict?”

“It’s a hobby not a habit so does that make me an addict?”  she loops in the song’s bridge as her vocals and the instrumentals grows into a messy yet inviting cluster of noise.

Miscommunicate begins with doubled vocals reminiscent of Soccer Mommy, giving the song’s introduction a bedroom pop type feel. “I’m way to good at letting you down” she sings in the songs’ chorus, detailing her infatuation with the intensity of toxicity in relationships. The production grows to a more rocky, indie-pop sound, adding to the danceability of the track. “I guess I just love to frustrate you, and I know why”. “Didn’t want to talk, I’ll just complicate it. Even when we dated I had my doubts. I think that’s why I miscommunicated. This is my way of getting out”, she reveals, noting her issues in the relationship as semi-intentional escapism. As her lyrics and story shifts, the production makes another change as glittery ‘80s styles synths permeate the backing of the track.

Gentle acoustic guitar opens Life Sentence, contrasting the tone of the earlier songs. “Just say what you mean, I promise it won’t hurt me”, she voices; “Only broken down 7 times this week. Maybe we can start again?”. Her vocals are soft and inviting; inquisitive before she poses “kiss me one more time and trust me this is fine”. The drums come in alongside overdriven guitars as the track heightens its’ emotion. The guitar layering and stylistic approach to playing is impressive in this song, taking a fairly minimal chord progression and consistently building on it. Her voice distorts and she screams out the second verse, demonstrating her pain and frustration. “Insanity’s a crime, and I have a life sentence”. Her voice grows more aggressive as the track progresses; one big emotional release.

The EP also features an extended version of her 2020 track Second. Re-introducing the heavy ‘80s synths, the song’s beginning is explosive before dropping back as she details the after-math of a bender; “Now I need to get to work but I’m still too drunk to drive”. The chorus brings back the explosivity of the introduction “Now tell me am I misunderstood, I can’t explain it but it just feels so good”. She adds depth to her recklessness in the second verse;

“I guess this is what heartbreak, well, often leads to do. And that’s why I’m avoiding love. And that’s why I’m avoiding you.”

Second’s bridge plays with the vocal style she’s been teasing with the previous tracks, performing an entire spoken word piece, proving herself as not only a talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, but an even better wordsmith.

“It’s nice to meet you how was your day at school, mine was shit” she opens in Common Denominator. Addressing her sexuality directly, she details an early relationship where she was set up by some friends, but quickly learnt that the only reason was not because they were compatible, but because they were both gay. She finishes the track through screaming the lyrics to the chorus, reminiscent of Courtney Barnett’s music. Swim furthers the conversations about her sexuality, while also being the emotional standout from the collection of songs. Indie-pop style acoustic guitar opens the song as a gentle, surf-rock guitar riff plays over the top.

“And once I found who I was I didn’t tell a single soul because a criminal is someone that I don’t applaud, and they kept saying I was breaking all the laws”

She sings almost entirely in run-on sentences, capturing her anxiety with coming out and accepting who she was when the world wasn’t ready for it. Contrasting the song with the religious rhetoric which shames the LGBTQ+ community she states “I cannot tell a single soul, I can’t. It’s out of my control, I just can’t love a man. And they keep saying I am breaking the lord’s plan”.

Why is it that people think that we’re the ones who are meant to sink, when we know we’re the strongest of them all?” she poses in the opening of Outro. Continuing the themes of water and the ‘sink or swim’ analogy, she furthers the ideas presented in the previous track. “I fell into water ‘cos my head wasn’t in order. My head and heart were numb and made of stone” she sings before the instrumental bursts into an electro-pop, bass-heavy eruption of noise, continuing to express her pain, anger and frustration with learning to accept herself. “I watch people fake their empathies and then reject identities and then go off and live a peaceful life” she sings on the irony of anti-LGBTQ+ advocates, particularly those preaching love from a Christian viewpoint, while harming an entire community.

“I no longer think I’m worthless now my feet, they touch the surface and I know that I no longer have to swim”. She ends the record on this powerful note, spiralling through her emotions with the new knowledge that she is okay and that she can love who she wants to love and be who she wants to be. Through a seminal collection of songs celebrating turning self-hardship into self-discovery, Hope D has so eloquently created an audible comfort blanket for those who have suffered the way that she has in terms of not accepting themselves or their identities. Depicting the realities of her life, particularly through the eyes of someone who had experience coming out, ‘Cash Only’ works as a success story for any stage of those process. An honest snapshot of a harrowing and life-altering experience, although this record is small, the impact it will have on the listeners who need it will be so much bigger.

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With thanks to Title Track

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