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Album review: The Honeyfire “The Honeyfire” (FRUK)

February 11, 2015

The Honeyfire - album coverHailing from Bristol, The Honeyfire have recently released their first album under this name (they were previously known as Wolfhound) and it marks a significant refinement of their indie-folk sound, although the band’s lineup remains constant. Recorded with Jim Barr (Portishead and Get The Blessing), sisters Sally and Natalie Joiner along with Anja Quinn have produced a lush, smooth sounding album which will undoubtedly attract new listeners without alienating their existing fan base.

The midtempo ‘Road Signs’ opens proceedings at a stately pace with a sound reminiscent of early 1970s Pink Floyd, although its lyrical content (alienation, loneliness) is delivered with a keening beauty which takes it to a different place altogether and it’s a definite highlight of the album. The vocals and Sally Joiner’s echo-swathed guitars are given room to breathe in the air of ‘Delusion’ by the cleverly arranged stop-start percussive shuffle of Anja Quinn’s drums, while Natalie Joiner’s bass leads the coda to its modulated synth-driven conclusion.

Softly chiming guitars weave through ‘Dreams’, its dark heart of bass and drums beating with a heaviness that’s well suited to its lyric of betrayal and love gone bad. Skittering drums and a bass that seems to be channeling early Joy Division drive the doomy ‘Parallel’ onwards, as the vocal harmonies rise ever upwards in a swirling circle of sound.

The reflective ‘Unheard Voice’ plays to the band’s vocal strength; rich harmonies are spotlighted above slow guitars and Anja’s musical saw in this gentle, thoughtful ballad. ‘Wolves’ is underpinned by its skipping rhythm, fleshed out by some steady-rolling guitars and a menacing bass it gives a cursory nod to the band’s musical past, but the exquisite harmonies place it squarely in the here and now.

A sad tale of heartbreak, ‘Can’t You See?’ waltzes slowly by, its minor chord changes redolent of flamenco music; while feathery guitar opens the anxious ‘Underwater’ over a bassline that rises like air bubbles from a shipwrecked galleon while sugarsweet harmonies pound like the sound of surf breaking on a distant beach.

The lyrics of ‘Blind Eye’ urge the listener to pay attention to the wider world outside as well as the inner spaces of our hearts; it’s a slow and thoughtful number which is another of the album’s highlights. ‘Noah’ closes the record with a return to a lyric which deals with the politics of the personal; possessed of a restrained musical arrangement, the unaccompanied vocals at its core are a thing of beauty while its final few seconds of off-mic studio laughter bring us gently back to earth.

The Honeyfire is a slow-burner of a record with a nuanced and idiosyncratic look at the world. The sweet harmonies of Sally, Natalie and Anja combined with the considered arrangements and polished sound have produced a deceptively low-key yet passionate album whose hidden depths repay careful listening.

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Originally posted at Folk Radio UK (11 February 2015)

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