Caitlyn Phu

Niina Soleil meanders through the wilted, Western glory of “Whiskey Valentine”

Above all else, Niina Soleil is a California artist. It seeps through in every aspect of her music, perhaps most palpably displayed through her latest single, “Whiskey Valentine”.

While her work has often evoked the beaches and endless avenues of Southern California (see “Endless Summer”), “Whiskey Valentine” ventures into the desert, somewhere between Lana Del Rey and a classic Western film. With the whistling that opens the track calling immediately towards some lost Clint Eastwood classic and the folk rock of White Buffalo, Soleil provides vocals that drift from sultry to quietly tragic.

Her approaching debut album, Heliophilia, is a tribute to the Californian space she’s inspired by, as well as a deeply collaborative effort, with Soleil resisting any standard call to work with a single partner, instead finding inspiration by working with a wide range of producers, depending on the needs of each song. “[I worked with] almost as many producers as there are songs,” she jokes. Speaking more seriously on the balance between working with others and writing songs on her lonesome, Soleil shares, “When I’m working with other writers, it’s like a game that we’re all trying to solve; how do we make this story both fabulous and sensical? But when I’m writing by myself, it sometimes feels like a benevolent form of haunting. Like I’ll get a piece of an idea—a scrap of melody or lyric— and it’ll just… haunt me until I finish it. An unfinished song is a bit like a beautiful spirit with unfinished business if that makes any sense at all— I just try to interpret what the song wants to be until I’m satisfied that I got it right.

Check out “Whiskey Valentine” below, and look out for Heliophilia this spring.