ALBUM REVIEW: Honeyblood enjoys binary opposition on ‘In Plain Sight’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Honeyblood, In Plain Sight" cover art

Glasgow’s Honeyblood started as a duo in 2012, but after two albums, founding member Stina Tweeddale has taken the reins on In Plain Sight.  She collaborated with producer John Congleton, who has worked with both contemporaries Angel Olsen and St. Vincent, a pair of artists who share Tweeddale’s talent for mining and refining rock and roll’s past. In Plain Sight benefits from the juxtaposition of musical opposites: quiet and loud, graceful and mechanistic, sparse and dense, new and retro.

In Plain Sight
Honeyblood
Fatcat Records, May 24

The album’s opener, “She’s a Nightmare” begins with a crisp and minimal groove composed of plinking keyboards, angular guitar and straightforward drumming. But Tweeddale’s vocals, at once greasy and ethereal, introduce a pliable element of passion, oiling the cogs of the musical machine. The song was inspired by a female apparition who threatened Tweeddale in a series of dreams. But the song also contributes to the album’s depiction of women as mysterious and radiant. “Even when she glows, she never throws a shadow,” Tweeddale sings.

The album’s first single, “The Third Degree,” combines stripped-down power chords with an anthemic verse melody that calls to mind Kim Wilde’s 1981 pop hit “Kids in America.” But the song shifts into high gear for the chorus, as the sparse arrangement becomes a wall of sound. Tweeddale exorcizes an old love, singing “It used to be all about you, but now you’re out of my view.”

While the album’s first two tracks have a garage, retro vibe, “A Kiss From the Devil” begins with futuristic keyboards. The synth-heavy song’s timeless melody would sound right at home on alternative radio during any point in the last 25 years, or the next 25. But the track’s technological sheen squares some of Tweeddale’s curves, and the soft humanity of the album feels temporarily lost inside a pristine digital laboratory.

“Gibberish” is noisy and frenetic, sneering at the ethereal grace found earlier on the album with hard-driving sound. Distorted vocals become propelled by an unrelenting drum machine loop. Tweeddale’s voice cuts through the caustic wall of sound with another dig:  “When you’re talking, shit sounds like gibberish.”

The sparse and raw “Tarantella” offers a counterpoint to the dense futurism of “Gibberish. Its reverb-drenched sound is vaguely reminiscent of Lana Del Rey. The slinky ’60s-sounding number is punctuated by sudden blooms of musical intensity before settling back into its spacious groove. Where “Tarantella” echoes the past, “Take the Wheel” races toward the future with vaguely ominous and bleary pop featuring a modern-sounding distorted bass line. Tweeddale’s supple lyrics grow sneering. Similarly, “Touch” is mechanistic and poppy, but dystopian and gloomy.

“Glimmer,” the album’s second single, brings chugging power chords buoyed by poppy keys as Tweeddale offers another paean to feminine mystique: “Did you catch a glimpse?/ Incandescent/ Behind the moon/ She’s on fire tonight/ Burning like a ball of light/ Crashing with a passion that you’ll never touch/ And even in your dreams you know you can’t keep up.”

In Plain Sight is more idiosyncratic than earlier Honeyblood albums. Tweeddale’s musical harvesting clearly yields a more varied crop of songs. The album seems caught at times between the sneering misanthropy of grunge and the synthetic irony of new wave. “You’re a Trick” uses arpeggiated keyboards to evoke Devo’s computer nerd vibe, while “Twisting the Aces” uses chiming guitar and haunting vocals to create an earthier and more organic elegance.

The album closes with “Harmless,” as Tweeddale’s lithe vocals float above gentle piano. The song’s simplicity and emotional power are a fitting coda for an album that feels like a journey. In Plain Sight is a trip to many musical ports of call—a voyage of highs and lows, rest and exertion, anger and pleasure, simplicity and complication.

Follow writer David Gill at Twitter.com/songotaku and Instagram/songotaku

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *