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Album Review: HONNE – Love Me / Love Me Not

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After teasing anxious fans with a plethora of singles in the build-up to their newly released sophomore album Love Me / Love Me Not, HONNE have officially arrived in 2018. 

HONNE

Like the sundry EPs that precede it, album two from duo Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher finds a sweet spot in updating classic soul with electronic-pop synth beats. With visual adoration for Japan and nuances of West Coast California, the two university pals united by West Country childhoods exhibit woozy-chill-pop throughout the 12 tracks of Love Me / Love Me Not.

Commencing the album with a brief piano introduction before flourishing into the familiar electronic HONNE sound, ‘I Might ◑’ takes on a variety of styles. Between the rhythmic beats and distorted vocals, the track updates classic soul with new age to bring a downtown Tokyo feel – the lyrics too referencing their success in Asia. Exemplifying a newfound distinction, the somewhat hopeless tone of the album’s opening is soon contrasted with one of the record’s undoubted high points: a collaboration with fast-rising producer/songwriter Tom Misch on track two. ‘Me & You ◑’ opens with Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, in an appropriate fictional tone that establishes the leap of faith that is falling in love – a motif for the rest of the album. 

Continuing the groove, ‘Day 1 ◑’ is fundamentally about loyalty – praising a companion that has been true since the beginning. The track boasts a piano finesse whilst exhibiting Clutterbuck’s vocals that remain so consistently smooth throughout the record. Though HONNE are a new hi-tech soul, the conventions of original soul and blues shine through this track, with roots firmly in the same pool of self-thought and reflection. ‘I Got You ◑’ shows a low-key R&B influence whilst describing the idea of escapism with your significant other. Using the soulful dynamics of London collaborator Nana Rogues, the titled slang phrase is turned into a catchy chorus with achingly human emotions – we dip into the rollercoaster ups and downs of relationships.

Previously released tracks ‘306 ◑’ and ‘Location Unknown ◐’ showcase HONNE’s duality. Half exploring life’s positives and the other half life’s difficulties, the duo previously explained: “those two sides have been rooted in us from the beginning, but now is the first time we’ve truly demonstrated it. One doesn’t exist without the other, and so this time these songs have to be there together”.

Offering a window into the world of Love Me / Love Me Not, ‘306◑’ is a reflective acknowledgement of an old Peugeot and a notion of unfulfillment in the memories it contains. ‘Location Unknown ◐’, meanwhile, is more melancholic with the gorgeous guest vocals of Georgia. Here, the male/female dual vocals elevate the song comparable to ‘Someone That Loves You’ – the notable track featuring Izzy Bizu. With a danceable vibe, the track embodies a ‘for the soul’ or ‘for the sad’ juxtaposition, with the mixture of chill, feel-good music making the HONNE sound appropriate for late-night drives or meeting your high spirits.

Whilst ‘Crying Over You ◐’ almost feels cathartic as a liberating musical release, under the charming collaborated vocals with BEKA, there is an all too real example of the desire to achieve joy. In the same way ‘Shrink ◐’ and ‘I Just Wanna Go Back◐’ overtly address the anxious tone in the flipside of romance. Rather than the daisy-chain type love seen previously, lyrically “goodbye to sanity, I got along with you / But now you’re leaving me / What I am I gonna do?” rings out fear in a troubled mind.

Whilst ‘Sometimes ◐’ reveals a more self-critical side, HONNE comes full circle in the slow-jam album closer ‘Forget Me Not ◐’ - underlining the record’s late-night-lust thematics whilst heralding back to a simpler time that we all wish we had. Bringing the Love Me / Love Me Not motif to a close, the flower theme links unconditional, and often naïve love, with a very real statement that flowers will wilt and eventually die. 

Ultimately, Love Me / Love Me Not sees HONNE’s earliest ambitions come into focus. Taking their name from a Japanese word meaning ‘true feelings’ and the name of their early record label Tatemae reflecting ‘what you display in public’; love and contentment are contrasted with anxiety in an album that builds on a familiar, yet more experimental sound. Whilst dropping two tracks on the last Friday of every month prior to the album has left us with a lack of discovery, there’s no denying that Love Me / Love Me Not is an exciting release with alluring tracks.

HONNE’s sonic identity send the audience to a place – driving down an unnamed motorway in the middle of the night with rain hitting the car almost to the melody. The streetlights come and go in perfect rhythm, and, with turning on the stereo, this album is what you hear.

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