Somewhere out on a mystical bog, you hear the twinkling plucks of a harp as glowing orbs dance around you. Entranced by the sound, you follow the melody as it takes you further and further away from the well-trodden path. Is it safe to keep going? Are you about to get tricked by fairies? Who’s singing these songs, anyways?
Why, it’s Sara Henya, the harp playing fairy pop singer! And she’s not actually in a magic forest, she’s recording in a Philadelphia studio. But who cares about the real life specifics – when listening to Henya’s album, Pop Goblin, it’s best to let the real world go and let the enchantment wash over you.
Pop Goblin invites you into a dream world where frogs can talk and potions make you “fizzy in the head”. Henya is very committed to the fantasy aesthetic, and on nearly all of the tracks she croons about castles, fae courts, glowing ferns, and deceptive sirens out at sea. It’s all very playful, and perfectly encapsulates the vibe of the storybooks and mythologies that Henya is clearly paying homage to. When she sings about magic tricksters on “Fae Court,” the woodwinds are exactly what you’d expect to hear playing in a woodland kingdom. When the synths pulsate beneath “Castle of Stone,” it emulates the mix of excitement and fear a naive protagonist might feel at the prospect of exploring a mystic fortress.
Only one song is grounded in reality – “Pancakes,” a warm and charming track about making breakfast for a lover. And even then, the track is dripping with whimsy. I mean, who’s to say this maple syrup isn’t infused with some kind of alchemy?
Pop Goblin also features a remix of “Fae Court” from Marble Girl, which really highlights the underlying sinister themes of Henya’s witchy world. As fun as the album is, these aremostly stories of magical creatures out to steal your memories or your soul. Having this piece as the final track is a really nifty subversion of the album’s generally pleasant tone.
The harp lends itself so well to Henya’s overall vision. Paired with her crystal clear vocals and winking deliveries, the strings are practically transcendental. Really, what sounds more magical than a harp? It’s so easy to close your eyes and be transported to all of the mystical places she wants you to go. You can envision an animated Disney-like film reel to accompany each track.
In addition to the obvious fantasy themes, these songs are also overflowing with love for fandom. Henya has made a name for herself playing at sci-fi/fantasy conventions like Balticon, Arisia, and PhilCon, and it’s no surprise to hear that she herself is a big fan of high fantasy. Her music is guaranteed to be a hit with anyone involved in any of these niche genres, and as a bit of a nerd myself, I love when a piece of media leans full-tilt into these stylings without feeling like it’s poking fun at the scene or worse, like it’s embarrassed to be a part of the scene at all. This is all earnest, all love.
I really can’t stress enough how utterly charming Pop Goblin is. I was hooked right from the first track (“Pond Bully”), when the sounds of bubbles and frog croaks filter in and Henya begins describing a cranky bullfrog who’s harshing her wondrous vibes. Actually, let’s be real – I was hooked as soon as I saw the name Pop Goblin! What an incredible name for a project!
On “Walk Through The Woods,” Sara Henya urges you to “just say you believe in magic,” and after listening to this album, how could you not?