Album Review: Pale Honey – Pale Honey

By on Monday, 18th May 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Pale Honey album coverWe at TGTF have featured several top-notch Swedish acts on our pages in recent months, including First Aid KitAmason, and Tove Styrke. We’ve also featured our share of female garage rock artists, including Aussie singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett, Manchester quartet PINS, and Scottish duo Honeyblood. So my ears might have been fatigued from overexposure to subdued female vocals juxtaposed against heavy, distorted guitar and bass lines when I had my first listen to latest Swedish sensation Pale Honey.

The Gothenburg-based duo, comprising Tuva Lodmark on guitar and vocals and Nelly Daltrey on drums, recently released their self-titled debut album, following on last year’s ‘Fiction’ EP. ‘Pale Honey’ is replete with serpentine guitar and bass lines, lightly chugging percussion, and the double-tracked echo of Lodmark’s restrained vocal delivery, which is by turns sullen and sultry, depending on the lyrical intent. Lodmark and Daltrey worked with producer Anders Lagerfors in locations ranging from Stockholm to Paris to create a emotionally distant lo-fi sound that switches between what the album’s press release calls “themes of disheartenment and melancholy, empowerment and strength”.

While the album occasionally feels monotonous and one-dimensional, its unpredictable dynamic and rhythmic shifts manage to keep it interesting, even when the songs don’t fully engage. The deep, resonant guitar line and mellow “do-do-do-do-do” melody in the opening verse of ‘Fish’ explodes without warning into a larger, more expansive dynamic. Recent single ‘Youth’ opens with a similar stripped-back texture before kicking into overdrive for the chorus “I feel fine when you’re not mine / I get around, no I’m not bound.”

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Euhdw2wVZBE[/youtube]

The album loses traction with the slower, sultrier ‘Bandolier’, where the growling guitar riffs become a bit over-repetitive and the vocal line is overly subdued. While the guitar line takes on a noticeably brighter harmonic tone, the monotonous rhythm and relative lack of dynamic contrast make the song seem longer than its four and a half minutes. Likewise, ‘Lonesome’ maintains sonic interest with synthesized background effects, but its aloof vocal delivery and repetitive rhythmic ideas fail to make a solid connection.

‘Fiction’ sees the notable addition of brass and cowbell to the otherwise monochromatic instrumental palette, but further expansion of the synthesized effects in the second half of ‘Desert’ seem to appear from out of nowhere and don’t fit comfortably in the song’s overall texture. The laser-like sonic effects are more effective in the context of the dramatically reverberant guitars and dark harmonies of recent single ‘Tease’, which finds Lodmark experimenting very successfully with a richer, rougher vocal quality as she intones the memorable lyric “Baby, I like you better when you dress in black.”

It’s perhaps telling that ‘Pale Honey’ seems to alternate between repetitive monotony and wildly erratic shifts in mood and intensity. Pale Honey seem somewhat constrained by their own minimalist tendencies as well as by their two-woman lineup, which may have necessitated the overuse of synthesized production effects. But their sporadic forays into expanded texture and brighter harmonies are among the best moments on the album, and the potential for growth and refinement of their style is readily apparent.

6/10

‘Pale Honey’ is out now on Instant Records, but if you prefer to listen before you buy, the album is also streaming in full on Consequence of Sound. Pale Honey will play a one-off show at the London Islington on Wednesday the 20th of May.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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