Review: Honeyblood – In Plain Sight

It sounds like Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale has been watching a lot of Lucifer recently. Demonic imagery crops up repeatedly throughout ‘In Plain Sight’, expanding on the playful mentions of witches and hexes that characterised the band’s previous album, Babes Never Die.

Recorded as a solo project by Tweeddale following the departure of drummer Cat Myers, ‘In Plain Sight’ is a confident return for the Scottish artist following a year’s hiatus from touring. Richer in production and fuller in sound than the band’s previous work, the album features a range of new instrumentation such as synthesisers and keys, heard most prominently on tracks like A Kiss from the Devil. Album opener She’s a Nightmare brings the listener in with plucked strings, the first of many new sounds introduced to the band’s repertoire. Beneath these sit dense, broody chords that typify Honeyblood’s sound, setting the tone for the material to follow.

The songwriting on display here is punchy and upfront; Tweeddale largely eschews lyrical acrobatics for on the nose declarations of love and hate. Fans of her earlier material might miss the playful glibness of the old Honeyblood, but Tweeddale’s voice still sounds sharp and carries well over the noise. Early album highlights Gibberish and The Tarantella nicely showcase the band’s versatility in composition. The former is a frantic rush, building into a two-line mantra that will no doubt go down well at festivals this summer, while Tarantella sees Tweeddale floating above taut staccato chords reminiscent of The Black Keys at their commercial peak. The quiet/loud/quiet dynamic, a well-worn grunge trick owing a great deal to Curt Cobain, is used to good effect here.     

At times the dependence on supernatural imagery can get a little hackneyed, and the subject matter addressed rarely deviates from bad girls or bad breakups. Songs such as You’re a Trick and Take the  Wheel feel like extra padding kept in to fill out the album’s runtime, both overly-reliant on big choruses and a penchant for repetition that Julian Casablancas would be proud of.  Despite this, there’s much to like, with Tweeddale’s earnest songwriting shining through in the album’s singles. Her singing is easily the band’s greatest asset, and the new material fits in nicely with older songs from the band’s catalogue when performed live.

Ultimately, it’s the little touches that make the album worth repeated listens; the delicate harmonics and vibraphone hiding in the background of Twisting the Aces, or the Brian Wilson-esque vocals on The Third Degree. It sounds like Tweeddale hasn’t had an easy time in bringing her band this far, but In Plain Sight was definitely worth the wait.

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