Shaina Hayes Reaps the Fruits of Her Labour on 'Kindergarten Heart'

BY Oliver CrookPublished Feb 22, 2024


Shaina Hayes is a farmer, both by trade and education. This means she knows how to grow something mighty from a tiny seed, how to bloom and recede, and the power of fully nourishing something to get the fruits. All of this is evident on her sophomore album, Kindergarten Heart.

An album that’s as soft and tender as it is bold, Hayes keeps two feet in the soil and her head in the clouds throughout its ten songs. It’s an album that feels more confident than her 2022 debut, to coax a waltz, a huge step forward that almost guarantees she’ll spend more time on the stage than in the fields over the next few years.

Having grown up in Shigawake, a rural Municipality in the Gaspésie region of Quebec, a rustic aesthetic touches every inch of Hayes’s music and image. She cut her teeth performing in Montreal while studying Agriculture Sciences at McGill before graduating and returning to Shigawake. Her long lockdown days were spent growing vegetables and recording music, a slow way of life that shone through every moment of to coax a waltz. A sleepy affair informed by a childhood spent listening to Feist, it’s a minimalist trip through a difficult time. It also promised somewhat more than it delivered, a world of potential behind Hayes’s engaging voice and mysterious layers. Kindergarten Heart sees her deliver on that nascent potential.

Kindergarten Heart takes all the beauty, power and intrigue buried on Hayse’s debut and helps it blossom, constantly tending to its harmonies and bringing out the moments that Hayes seemed too timid to explore on her first go. Her vocals are at times both haunting and reassuring, a scared friend confident you’ll both make it through.

The title track is a beautiful ode to staying young despite life’s best efforts to corrupt us, a much needed sentiment in these chaotic times. These upbeat, mid tempo songs are what was missing from her debut, and they give Kindergarten Heart the variety it needs, a richer ecosystem. Elsewhere, “Fun” is a Kacey Musgraves-style romp through pop-country’s dance corners, a chance to let your hair down and just move. The brooding isn’t completely gone however; “Fool Forlorn” feels like a more mature take on the sound that made to coax a waltz so interesting.

What truly sets the album apart however, is Francis Ledoux’s drums. While to coax a waltz used percussion sparingly, Kindergarten Heart puts them front-and-centre, driving the songs in a firm but steady manner. It changes her sound completely, making it more dynamic and forcing you to pay attention.

Kindergarten Heart is an exciting reminder of what it sounds like to trust yourself and your abilities, to fulfill the potential of even the tiniest seeds.


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