By Erin Bensinger (@_babybluet)
On her first studio-recorded album, Virtual Heaven, songwriter and poet Caroline White presents some of her most cohesive, orchestral work yet. As Infinity Crush, White has cultivated an outlet for her innermost thoughts, projections, and fantasies over the course of her discography; Virtual Heaven is no exception. The record, released via Joy Void, maintains the artist’s DIY, bedroom-pop spirit with the added depth of higher production value.
White’s lyrical poetry resonates as always. She takes us on a tour of her inner monologue throughout the year, from rainy Minnesota days to an endless summer in the backseat, from the first day snow hits the ground to a cold April 4th. Her vignettes of loveless sex, sexless love, and every shade of desire and longing in between are stunning in their simplicity and vulnerability. Her delicate, lilting voice pairs with perfectly-measured doses of harmony and reverb on every track.
The opening track, “Misbehaving,” begins with a wistful guitar riff and builds with layers of ambient noise, violins, and an angelic vocal chorus as White tells the nostalgic story of a summer fling that could have been more, still could be — couldn’t it? Like many of the tracks on Virtual Heaven, “Misbehaving” throws out the notion of a typical song structure in favor of taking the listener on a non-linear journey through memory. Midway through, the song peaks with dark intensity as the guitar riff grows louder and a muffled percussion that sounds something like distant thunder rings out. The end comes abruptly as the instruments fall away, evoking the sensation of waking from a daydream.
The album’s fifth track, “Lunar Pull,” is a standout. It’s a brief, lush ode to the special type of intimacy that occurs between friends who find themselves lovers. The lyrics are brazen and honest, describing the dynamic in unique metaphor and plain speech at the same time: “Your lunar pull gives me vertigo / And I'm spending the night for the one-thousandth time / And you give me head 'cause we are just friends / And that's what we do, but I don't love you.”
It takes a few listens to pick out each individual layer of the track, all bursting and blooming in tandem from the beginning: twinkling guitar riffs that call back to the sounds of 90s midwest emo, a patient and relentless snare and cymbal beat, a nearly-imperceptible vocal harmony just below the surface.
The album’s title track is a tiny homage to Infinity Crush’s earlier work. At just one minute and 15 seconds, it’s pure bedroom pop: a strummed guitar, an ambient tape fuzz, a single verse, an emotional revelation about the end of the world. While the album is more refined and produced than 2016’s When We’re Snow, it doesn’t lose sight of its simple, vulnerable heart. This is the source of Virtual Heaven’s strength: it mixes moments of sonic expanse and growth with moments of reflection and return, managing to forge forward into a new sound without letting go entirely of an old one. The record is a beautiful metaphor for self-actualization in itself. May we all mature and grow with the same type of grace.