Release Date: 19th March 2021
Record Label: Fox Five Records
For Fans Of: JAWS, The Black Keys, Pixies
Black Honey are a band who seem to have accomplished so much in a relatively short space of time. Their debut album featured in the UK Top 40, they’ve played at Glastonbury and supported Queens of the Stone Age, appeared on the cover of NME magazine, and even became the faces and soundtrack of Roberto Cavalli’s Milan Fashion Week show. If, despite all of those insane achievements, you’ve not still taken much notice of Black Honey, their latest album Written & Directed will guarantee you will from here on in.
Written & Directed is an album exploring everything from womanhood to identity, and power; revelling in the rich history of pop culture and subtly paying homage to rock ‘n’ roll heroes like The Black Keys and Pixies. However, it’s so much more than just a collection of catchy songs. For frontwoman Izzy B. Phillips, this is her opportunity to make her mark and plant the flag for strong, world-conquering women by filling the female-shaped gap she feels has plagued rock music since discovering the genre at a young age.
Written & Directed can be summed up succinctly by simply saying: What. An. Album. It’s anthemic, gritty and everything you could possibly want from a modern-day rock record. It shifts effortlessly between fuzzy guitar and bass into tranquil piano and lush synths that break up the barrage of noise for only seconds at a time before the album explodes again. The drop at the start of ‘Believer’ is sonic perfection, while ‘Disinfect’ shows Black Honey can do the loud, brash stuff as well as any band, with a skull crushing chorus that will hit the very core of your soul. Although the instrumental tones don’t vary massively throughout the album, the way the instruments are layered in each song means every single verse, chorus and bridge packs a serious punch.
One of the standout features of the record is the way Black Honey infuse elements of contrasting genres into their own brand of rock. ‘Beaches’ is a soulful surf-rock tune with the power to instantly make you want to dance, bringing in brass instruments to add to the old-school vibe of the song and create a joyful swing to the instrumentals. As well as the recurring brass sounds throughout the album, there are also cameo appearances from acoustic guitars, pianos, synths, digital drums and distorted vocals, all of which are blended into the record to break up the typical rock soundscape and provide a nice contrast for when the album does get heavy. While the vocals could probably be slightly louder and do get drowned out in places, Phillips’ vocal performances are truly astonishing throughout, none more so than in the closing track ‘Gabrielle’, a stunning ballad that brings Phillips’ unmatched talent to the fore over a subtly flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar backdrop.
In short, there’s not a single bad song on Written & Directed. It’s an album that strikes the perfect balance between musical complexity and sing-along choruses, with every song feeling like a journey through the creative psyche of a band that are surely headed to the very top of their scene.
Rating – 9/10
Recommended Tracks – ‘Beaches’ & ‘Believer’