Album Review: Devotion by Pale Honey

By Michaela Barton (@lowkeypigeon)

rating 9Minimalistic rock guitar-drum duo Pale Honey lay bare their innermost reflections in their new broodingly introspective album Devotion. Comprised of Tuva Lodmark (guitar/vocals/songwriter) and Nelly Daltrey (drums/principal songwriter), these friends from Sweden have formed an intense and hypnotic sound. Their newest release accounts obsession, depression, anxiety and fractured relationships – stark, harrowing and brilliant, the album guides the listener into the deepest and most tumultuous depths of the psyche. A mix of striped back alternative indie with elements of garage rock, Tuva and Nelly construct an album with scarcely any misses.

The opening track Replace Me tells of a failing relationship the protagonist feels trapped in as she wonders “Why won’t you just leave me?”. Layered unsettling guitar riffs emulate the uneasiness the relationship has fallen to. The main guitar riff stalks the light vocals creating an urgent chasing feel, like the imminent self-implosion of the relationship is getting closure and closure, an implosion that Someone’s Desire accounts the aftermath of. “Learn to leave it, let it go. This was over long ago.” Heavy and menacing, Someone’s Desire is the rejection of a past love’s obsession. With brutal lines like “I never told you why I left you. I lean in and whisper I don’t need to” followed by deep, intense riffs, there’s an undercurrent of hate as the protagonist insists “don’t lay your love here, I don’t want it.” Any past affection that may have existed has been replaced – toxic obsession causing hostile disdain.

After the intense opening, Get these Things Out of my Head bursts through as an energetic and catchy single, but despite the spirited melodies the lyrics stay true to the starkly confessional nature of the rest of the album. Depicting the struggles of living with mental illness and trying to come to terms with the never-ending confusion and strain: “All this time and still I’m not sane. All this talk and yet it hasn’t changed”, “Turned me inside out still I can’t”. Lyrics pour out of Tuva as she pleads for release from the storm in her mind, but the plummeting riffs of the bridge demonstrate her failure as she falls further into the rabbit hole.

Other livelier tracks of the album include garage rock anthem Golden and single Real Thing. Sexual obsession and a stream of innuendos make Real Thing a perkier track for the album. Excitable tin drum beats help lighten the mood while also producing a raw sound. “Pull your gun/ and knock me over” – the metaphor of a gun helps demonstrate the perils of this passionate obsession and the risks it could bring (which will be explored in later tracks), yet still the song leads off with a suggestive plea of “You should come over/ and roll me over”.

The deliberation and instrumental prowess is evident in this album, every note and inflection seems purposeful to emulate the haunting passion of the lyrics. The Heaviest of Storms is a bleak, poignant song suggesting an isolation that comes with deep introspection late at night while suffocated with depression. The storm builds to a pulsing, thunderous climax enveloping Tuva’s voice and burrowing into the listener.

As a complete contrast to The Heaviest Storm, 777 (Devotion, Pt. 2) is a truly beautiful song, with calm vocals, delicate melodies and use of harp to bring the song to a tranquil level that perfectly matches intimate lyrics. Keeping with the general theme of the album however, as affectionate as these lyrics seem, there is a touch of obsession. “I will end my heart to get that close to you … please tell me what to do. Don’t fall over to the other side, out of reach I need you in my sight.” Including the harp over these lyrics may suggest delusion as the protagonist clings so tightly to her love, she’s willing to give her life to stay at their side despite them drifting away. Sweep seems to tell the aftermath of this song. Gentle and moving but with an undercurrent of torment, Sweep describes the feeling of loneliness when love leaves but obsession continues: “You belong to them and I belong to no one. Always stuck behind, I’m stuck inside my mind. You are what I loved and all what I’ve lost.” Synths build, accompanied with drums to an overpowering climax that suffocates the guitar riff.

Why Do I Always Feel this Way is the closing track of the album and a personal favourite. A desperate introspection of a failed relationship with haunting repetitive vocals demonstrating the continuing obsession to answer why. “Was it all for her? I wished it for me. Will I never learn why you’re not for me?” shows a self-awareness of the hopeless fixation yet reveals an impossible feat in moving on. Singer Tuva has spoken of her OCD in past interviews and this song especially, along with others on the album, reveals what dating is like when living with an obsessive mind. Feeling trapped in a continuing loop of doubt, love, self-hatred and hope, never quite able to move past old feelings as they cycle constantly through the mind. Tuva’s voice drifting off as she continually repeats the same questions in an apparent loop is a saddening yet beautiful insight to the obsessive mind.

The album is a haunting masterpiece – brutally self-aware, raw and menacing but wholly human. Devotion’s strength is not only in melodies, lyrics, production or voice, but everything. It’s clear that every element of this album was meticulously thought out and crafted to perfection.

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