The debut EP from singer/songwriter Tina Boonstra is a solid collection of tunes that feature crisp and safe production and songwriting.
My Concrete Heart (Will Beat Again) is the debut release from Tina Boonstra, a Christian musician who found a home for her songs in the open mic scene in London after people in the church didn’t take much interest in her work. Boonstra cites influences such as Wolf Alice and John Mark McMillan, which, paired with her history as a songwriter and performer, paints a fairly accurate and complete picture of her sound: a mix of emotional slowcore and sharp indie rock with spiritually-minded lyrics.
In a press release, Boonstra reports that she “cut her teeth and honed her craft” in her time on the acoustic circuit. As evidenced by these six songs, it’s a solid claim. Everything is in its proper place, and Boonstra seems at ease in her performance and production. The melodies are good; the tones are good; the lyrics are good. As a larger piece, the songs flow together well, and all the tracks are recorded well.
The problem with My Concrete Heart is that, while everything is good, rarely does Boonstra achieve greatness. The production, for all its merits, seems cold and overcalculated — a mood that is not befitting to these songs. The slower cuts read as a bit melodramatic, which is perhaps inherent to the slowcore style. The lyrics generally are a bit bland, and the vocal performances are very restrained. The EP feels very “safe.” This, again, makes sense given Boonstra’s history in the church and the acoustic scene — both of which tend to be petri dishes of unchallenging music.
All this considered, there still are moments of brilliance within My Concrete Heart. It shouldn’t be understated that the production here is fantastic, and it seems well within Boonstra’s ability to produce a warm-sounding record in the future. Furthermore, her voice, while not reaching its fullest potential in this release, has a lot of power and clarity. In a style that tends to put vocals farther forward in the mix, this is a valuable asset indeed. The lyrics for “Only a Human” are a highlight of the release, telling a story of a suicide bomber which then serves as a greater allegory of struggle under oppression. The EP’s best moments are the more energetic tracks, where Boonstra seems to cast off restraint in her performances just a little bit. I can only imagine how great it would sound if she pushed herself even farther, with more aggressive jams, more resonant slow-burners, and more dynamic vocals.
In My Concrete Heart (Will Beat Again), Tina Boonstra demonstrates clear talent and skill with meticulous production and tight songwriting. While the release often feels flat, this is only the beginning of Boonstra’s career. She has a promising and refreshing voice in Christian music and definitely is an artist that should be on your radar.