Stina Tweeddale goes solo and takes inspiration from her fears on Honeyblood’s epic third album In Plain Sight.
We all have album releases that make us nervous – that make our hearts beat that little bit faster on first listen. They’re usually from an artist or band that you have high – maybe unreasonably – expectations of. An artist or band that has impressed you before. A journey that you’ve followed from the start maybe, but certainly someone you feel personally invested in. This is how I felt on hitting the play button on the new Honeyblood album In Plain Sight (out now via Marathon Artists).
From the powerful but lo-fi sound of 2014’s eponymous first album to the raucous riffs of 2016’s Babes Never Die and all the little releases in between, I’ve eagerly watched this band develop. Except, Honeyblood has arguably never been a band in the strictest sense. For the first album, Stina Tweeddale joined up with drummer Shona McVicar, while Cat Myers provided the percussive drive for album number two. But the songs always felt like Tweeddale’s stories. The question was whether going it alone for this third outing, to avoid having to compromise her vision, would actually lead to her compromising herself and the reputation the band has built.
In Plain Sight is made up of eleven tracks that resolve this question in just over 36 minutes. And boy does Tweeddale have some tales to tell along the way. From the otherworldly apparitions that inspired album opener ‘She’s A Nightmare’ (“Even when she glows she never throws a shadow, she’s looking like she’s not all there”) to the waking nightmare of dealing with a “shit-head ex” in ‘The Third Degree’, she deftly weaves spooky imagery with the curses of daily life. It feels appropriate that the album was recorded during Halloween season last year.
She has also channelled her energy into an immense sound this time around, with the assistance of producer John Congleton (Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, St Vincent). In Plain Sight sees her dabbling with different musical styles like spell ingredients and it’s beguiling. If the witches from the 90s film ‘The Craft’ had formed a band in their 20s, this could be their sound. ‘A Kiss From The Devil’ has a glam rock stamp to it, while ‘Gibberish’ races along full of venom fuelled by the shouting backing vocal. The deliciously twisted and dark ‘You’re A Trick’ nods to the ominous synth sound that features heavily in John Carpenter horror films, while the slower-paced guitar driven ‘Twisting The Aces’ reminds me of Natalie Imbruglia at her indie-pop best. Much of this third album demands to be danced to. It’s hard to stay still while listening to the throbbing electro-rock of ‘Touch’ or the grinding Queens Of The Stone Age style guitars on ‘Take The Wheel’ and the chorus of ‘The Tarantella’ encourages the frenzied dancing that the song takes its name from.
Album closer ‘Harmless’ perfectly reflects the way Tweeddale has owned the process of creating this album and stepped bravely into the spotlight. Her self-awareness is easy to relate to as she sings “Some day I’ll get to be disgustingly happy and I’ll stop searching for something to fight me”. The track stops quite sharply with “I’m harmless” left ringing in your ears. It’s a charming end to a magical album.
The individual parts of this album may resonate on different levels but, as a whole, it goes beyond that. It refuses to be neatly packaged up, it’s big and bold and busting out everywhere. But, most importantly, it doesn’t feel settled. There are plenty more stories to be told, but we’ll have to wait. Until then, these songs will remain stubbornly stuck in my head as they have been since first listen.
Tweeddale’s refreshing honesty through her wordsmithery is empowering, her sonic experimentation is powerful. I don’t give an album a score of ten lightly, but this is an album that is so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Through Honeyblood, Tweeddale has always worn her heart proudly on her sleeve, but with In Plain Sight the extent of her creativity is also becoming clear. This is her vision, no compromises.