Honne, a London-based electronic music duo, has recently released their debut album, titled Warm on a Cold Night. The title for the album fits perfectly, and the reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, Honne's first single, and subsequently their first hit, was "Warm on a Cold Night". This song is also the lead-off track on this album. Second, the title encapsulates the essence of Honne's music - perfectly describing the warm tones of this album which, by the way, is meant to be listened to at night, preferably in bed, preferably where you are being kept warm not only by the music, but by another human of your desired gender.
Let’s dive into the music, shall we? Honne’s formula isn’t all that complex: It involves marrying long, smooth synths to Andy Clutterbuck’s soulful voice. At the start of the album, they find interesting, catchy ways to create music within this framework, but later on in the album I think the music starts to run stale. Before I delve into where I think the album begins to push up against the boundaries the artists have set for themselves, I want to heap praise onto the utterly captivating start of this work.
As stated earlier, the album kicks off with the titular track, “Warm on a Cold Night”. It’s a fantastic opening track, not only because it’s one of the stronger individual tracks on the album, but it provides a good platform for the listener to set their expectations for the rest of the album. In the context of the rest of the album, it isn’t the most chill or intense song, so it allows the listener to get a balanced appetizer. And it’s a tasty morsel, like the finest crab cake you can munch on at a seaside diner. The synths here, when they fade in and out during the chorus, perfectly compliment Andy’s voice.
The second track, “Til the Evening”, is quite similarly structured to the opener. There is a low density, chill chorus that explodes into a musical crescendo with powerful synths during the chorus. I like the track order because clearly you want more after listening to that first track, right?! I think “Til the Evening” has more of a soul-inspired vibe to it, with echoing background vocals during the verses, which helps to slightly differentiate it from track uno.
Both of these tracks serve to set up the big-hitter in this album in the 3rd track, “Someone that Loves You”. This is probably my favorite track on the album, just because it breaks away a little from their formula in a couple of key ways. To start, the track has a bit more energy than most of the tracks on the album – it’s definitely a danceable number, with a snappy buoyancy to the beats that I didn’t feel from the other higher-energy tracks. Furthermore, it has the album’s only feature, in Izzy Bizu’s vocals. Not enough can be said about how influential her presence is on this track. Her vocal idiosyncrasies instantly endeared her to me, with subtle little inflections at the ends of words. It seems that this influenced Andy’s on singing on this song, because he seems to be imitated Izzy’s inflection style during his voice. The pairing of the two singers is fantastic, and hearing them trade off verses, then combine for the chorus makes for some lovely sonic variety that checks all the right boxes for me.
Moving further along in the album, I enjoyed the chorus on “All in the Value”, thanks to a variation in synths that were plucky instead of long and drawn out. Another strong track follows in “Treat You Right”. Something about the earnestness and positivity of the lyrics, coupled with the warm, fuzzy tones in the instrumentation made me feel like this song was giving me a giant bear hug. I loved the altered vocal samples that loop and form an interesting sonic backdrop as well.
Unfortunately, after those strong five first tracks, the album definitely starts to wane in quality. “Out of Control” is an uninspired slow jam that doesn’t innovate from the opening tracks, except in questionable lyrical choice. “Give a dog a bone”? Cringe. The next few tracks are nothing really special. All of them are more or less weaker versions of earlier tracks in the album. “It Ain’t Wrong Loving You” stands out a little more by leaning heavily on soul and gospel music, but it doesn’t impress me overall. I should stress that these songs are not bad – on the contrary they’re all actually pretty good. They would fare much better if listened to on their own, but since I’m listening to these songs in the context of an entire album, they start to sound repetitive.
Things start to get a little more interesting at the tail end of the album, with “Take You High”. I dig the wavy, funky rhythms in this song, along with the positive gospel tones. The last track, "Baby, You're Bad" also does something a little different - It's a disco beat! It's not secret that I'm a huge sucker for disco, so I'll freely admit my predisposed bias. Anyways, I appreciate the departure from the album's normal fare towards the end. When taken as a whole, I think Warm on a Cold Night is a solid debut album with some quality consistency issues, but also some truly fantastic individual tracks. Honne is clearly aware that they have a niche that they do well in, but I encourage them to spread their wings a little and foray into slightly more uncharted territory. They're a talented duo and I'm already excited to see what they do next!
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