The latest offering from the Scottish indie band moves towards a brand new style, with punchier tracks and a fresh sound – while being familiarly spirited. But how does the album fare with a new and experimental production style?
In Plain Sight is the third album from the now-solo artist Honeyblood. Previously, the band had been a duo of vocalist and guitarist Stina Tweeddale and drummer Cat Myers but it was announced following the release of the album’s first single, “The Third Degree”, that the latter had left, and that Tweeddale would continue Honeyblood as a solo project.
This shift in influence from two to one is apparent in every track on In Plain Sight. What was gritty garage-indie is now gritty garage-pop, with production that stretched only a couple of instruments to fill a sound changing for production that makes many more instruments sound oddly lo-fi and thin.
This new sound marks Honeyblood’s third album as a brave step in a new direction.
I’ll talk first about the tracks themselves. In Plain Sight is a collection of catchy numbers (though they’re a little shallow compared to those on Honeyblood and Babes Never Die), several of which build to razor-sharp choruses. The verses tend to be sparse and moody and the choruses noticeably more upbeat. She’s a Nightmare – probably the best track on the album – is one of three pop-ready tracks (the other two being the other two singles, Glimmer and The Third Degree). While these work with the newer style, other tracks on the album suffer from it. You’re a Trick, for example, sounds like a lo-fi indie version of Funkytown by Lipps Inc. (yes, I did reference a track I only know from the Shrek 2 soundtrack). Sadly, it doesn’t work half as well as Funkytown and feels as though it hits a wall it can’t get over dynamically. A Kiss From the Devil suffers from the same problem, not really building to a particular crescendo (as well as some major problems in terms of production).
There are highlights musically however. Aside from the three singles I mentioned, The Tarantella, though taking a while to peak, has a stomp of a chorus, Take the Wheel builds well, Touch suits its lo-fi, grungy production and Twisting the Aces sashays into acoustic closer, Harmless.
Musically then, this album works pretty well. What’s less successful is the production. In most places, the sound is muddy and given the amount of instruments In Plain Sight has, it can sound quite thin in places. A major problem I found is that in a couple of tracks, Take the Wheel and Gibberish for example, the kick drum is far too loud, and because of the compression on it, it breaks the tracks up way too much – making everything else hard to hear and coming through your speakers as a low rumble. The guitar in the chorus of the latter sounds pretty naff, and that’s not the only track that has this problem. A Kiss From the Devil not only has weak guitars and a murky synth but the choices of instrumentation seem to make everything sound oddly dissonant. Like much of the album, the instruments all sound too similar – the guitar sounds like the bass which sounds like the synth, the drums are too loud in most places and the vocals too quiet. It’s a shame because I think with a little mixing (the album desperately needs more in the higher frequencies) and a few choice synth changes, the sound make-up could be really interesting. The reverbs are too subtle in most places, especially when compared to debut album Honeyblood, and some of the vocal effects are distracting. I appreciate what the production team was trying, I really do, but I don’t think the results are what they could have been.
It somehow sounds much smaller with a lot of instruments and no limit on tracks than the debut album (which tried very hard to just be a guitar, a drum kit and vocals and was limited instrumentally) – both a testament to Honeyblood’s earlier production and an indicator of the problems of In Plain Sight.
The overall theme of the album (and Tweeddale’s continued love of all things that find their home at Hall’o’ween) is nice, and I really like the punchy lyrics. The actual songs are mostly pretty good, but some strange production choices let down an album that otherwise had potential.