Honey Beard are a Canadian based Synthpop duo from Toronto. They’ve been playing music together for almost ten years now and have a discography spanning over six of them. Their latest release ‘Oneiros’, is the second studio album from the band and, in my opinion, their best to date.
I should preface this review with the fact that I have had a copy of their album since July of this year (2021) so this review has been cultured over the past few months and some of my initial feelings and impressions of the album have matured over time.
The album opens up with a slowly rolling cinematic intro, that gradually weaves an epic effloresce of arpeggiators and ethereal vocals. It’s a great introduction to the album and gives Honey Beard a chance to do their spin on the typical Synthwave song phrasing.
The second track and album single ‘Lighthouse’, which was accompanied with its own music video just before the release, brings a special energy with it. It’s a fast paced tune with a real sense of urgency cracking through it and when you get to the two and a half minute mark this very sweet breakdown just comes out of nowhere. When you listen to enough Honey Beard you know they like their breakdowns but this is magnificent. Funnily enough, when I first heard this track a few months ago I didn’t imagine it as the lead single but it makes total sense now.
It’s strange to hear Honey Beard play in the major key but ‘Until Summer’ seems to nail it. As is a theme in most of the bands work, there is a dichotomy at play here. Sweet summer vibes recalling warm grass and the sounds of children playing is subverted by deep dark machinations, the two faces of hope and despair seems to stare through most of Honey Beards music and its nicely at work here. The stabbing synth bells used to plot the melody through out the song is giving me big ‘Hummingbird’ vibes and knowing that there is a discography wide concept at play, this doesn’t surprise me.
‘Slipstream of a Daydream’ is quite simply stunning and beautiful. This song is just so dreamlike and otherworldly, with ethereal breathy vocals that has imbues a whimsical quality that I can’t quite articulate. You need to be ready to hear it, this is a slow vibration that bristling with magic. Just sit, relax in the dark and let it take you on its ancient current.
‘Black Skies’ was released last year and I’ve listened to it every day since. Easily in my all-time top 10 songs. It’s a little electro-dark whirlwind of a song that pumps out of the speakers. You may have already heard it as its been out a while now and has its own video but yes, this is a song that has a serious stake in my deep rooted relationship with synth music.
Another cool thing that Honey Beard do on this album that is not usually done on other albums is to have two separate songs be directly related to each other, like a mini sub text (Think Metallica’s Unforgiven trilogy). 'Dark Tides' is the sequel to Black Skies (or if you listen to the lyrics, its probably more of a prequel) that manages to play in the same syncopation sandbox yet manages to have its own unique identity. This is the bands post-punk effort and I get strong Dave Gahan like vibes from the vocals in this one. The band also released a moody music video for Dark Tides which is fits the song perfectly, go watch.
There is a definite change of pace on the 7th track when ‘Free of Form’ rolls around. It’s a simpler song, like a traditional synth song if you wish with none of the twists and turns of the previous tracks. I quite enjoyed the difference as its didn’t dilute the magic of the first 6 songs by trying to repeat or one up what went before, instead Free of Form is just a refreshing synth song that I think will appeal to almost everyone, their poppiest track on the album, very retro sounding in my opinion and for this album, something different once again!
The penultimate track, ‘The Horror’, is what I call the “dance floor darling” of the album. When I first heard the song a while back it didn’t really connect to me but I do admit it has grown on me over time. It’s a very 90s house music call-back that straddles those siren stabs synonymous with 90s rave music alongside Honey Beard signature of sad, tender vocals. I’m still warming to it but its undoubtedly got value as a big dance hit
The final track, ‘Rot Away’, brings back that thematic dichotomy again. It’s like a celebration of melancholy, where the lyrical themes are at war with the sad funeral like musicianship. Its feels like an ideological fight against the very dark nature of Honey Beard. A lovely song to end the album on, the emotional beats through out this song ebb, flow and at one point explode in a wailing crescendo, only to gently close with an orchestral finale that feels like a sad memory floating away to obscurity.
I N S U M M A R Y ‘Oneiros’ is a magical amalgamation of synth genres that really does take you on a journey of sensations. Honey Beard have spoken many times about how their entire body of work is actually one long narrative concept that was conceived back in 2015 when they were writing their first EP. Themes of Dreaming and themes of water are omnipresent throughout their previous works and seem to reach a zenith here in ‘Oneiros’. Mixed and co-produced by Michael Oakley, the album’s timbre sonically captures the emotion Honey Beard seem so totally invested in, and in many respects makes ‘Oneiros’ is as much a work of art as it is a collection of songs.
ONEIROS Now available to buy (Vinyl and Digital) on Bandcamp.
Album cover by: experimentzero