Review: Black Honey – Black Honey

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Black Honey's debut represents the unleashing of a carefully and cleverly cultivated sound in a debut that provides the band with a perfect platform to continue to grow and eventually conquer.

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Black Honey‘s tracks have been littering the sonic landscape in earnest since 2015, and the hoards of fans around the country that will have been steadily increasing in number during that time will have grown used to the sun-bleached, shimmering, sometimes-sweet-sometimes-sour stylings of tracks like ‘Corrine’ and ‘Cadillac’, which were among the first of the Brighton band’s songs to seduce the indie-rock world. It’s testament to both their seemingly boundless knack for creating new music, and the ceaseless evolution they’ve embarked on as a group since their inception in 2014, then, that the vast majority of tracks on Black Honey’s self-titled debut album haven’t seen the light of the record store, and the few that have were mostly dropped as singles in the direct run-up to the album’s release.

Those fans will be pleased that what Izzy Phillips and co. have given us with Black Honey is a collection of songs that not only captures the sultry, enigmatic tunefulness of the band that first captured our attention three years ago, but elevates and transforms it into a statement of intent from one of the most innovative and self-assured indie bands working today.

Of those aforementioned singles, the stand-out has to be ‘Midnight’, which struts onto the scene as the album’s second track with the sort of synth-laden bassline which promises to be positively toothache inducing when seen live. Elsewhere, Phillips drizzles her lyrics over the top, as sugary-sweet and seductive as it gets, while the synth solo meanders away like it was ripped from the boss level of an ’80s arcade game, and the whole thing is wrapped up with a hook so catchy it’ll be stuck in listeners’ ears for days after the final notes play. It really is as good an example of how to write a tune that will get people humming in their bedrooms and moving in the stadium as you’re likely to come across, but it’s only one facet of an album that feels at home wearing a number of different hats.

‘Just Calling’, for instance, is a taught, chugging, power-ballad style number with a melancholy tinge, and represents the band at their most understated and introspective, with Phillips’ lyrics conveying the anxiety and wistfulness of a past love story perfectly. On the other hand, Black Honey’s penchant for melodrama has never been more evident. On closer ‘Wasting Time’, Phillips’ vocals soar above guitars which echo into the distance while drums pound ceremoniously as though accompanying a funeral march. It’s reminiscent of the Queen of Melodrama, Lana Del Rey, and perfectly conveys the sort of paradoxical mix of emotion and fun that Black Honey have honed so well.

That sense of fun and ridiculousness isn’t lost on the rest of the album, either. Bells chime, whips crack, and Phillips’ vocals pirouette with a slight tinge of auto-tune throughout on ‘Bad Friends’, while on ‘Into The Nightmare’, the looming bassline is contrasted with swelling, echoing pianos during the lead-up to the chorus.

Black Honey have been honing their identity since they started out back in 2014, and their debut album is another different iteration of the four-piece’s sound. Still present are the American “Old West” style guitar twangs and the bubblegum sweetness and innocence of Phillips’ vocals, but it’s all supplemented here by the added time spent perfecting their craft, and the sense of assuredness that brings to proceedings. Black Honey fans may be surprised by how different this album appears to be at first glance to their earlier sound, but on further inspection, the Brighton four-piece couldn’t have done a much better job of announcing themselves to the world.

Black Honey is available now via Duly Noted records. 

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