Too often in winter, we in the Southern Hemisphere get a bunch on summer anthems rubbed in our face as the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the sunshine and all that comes with it. Finally though, we have someone looking out for us - British newcomers Honne. Honne’s debut album is called Warm On A Cold Night and it’s soul music custom-made for evening by the fire. Everything about it from its lyrics to its sonic design gives off the feeling of rugging up on a cold night.
As a bit of background, Honne are James Hatch and Andy Clutterbuck. Think of them as Chet Faker if Chet really knew funk. They’re soulful, consistent and named after a Japanese word that means true feelings. In the past year, they’ve dropped two EPs Gone Are The Days and Over Lover plus produced for and worked with fellow upcoming British soul singers JONES and Izzy Bizu.
They impressed earlier this year at SXSW and have continuously been upgrading to bigger venues each time they play in London. Australia has latched on recently with their current single Someone That Loves You featuring Izzy Bizu. It’s currently in the top 10 of triple j’s most played songs of the week and the momentum seems to only just be beginning.
If you’re a fan of anything that they’ve put out in the past you’re likely to fall in love with Warm On A Cold Night immediately. The vocals feel immediately comforting and the grooves are tinged with the same warmth that they offered up on early singles. Despite a consistent output of great music in the past, the record is made up of mostly new songs. It positions them as soul artists but there’s a melting pot of genres behind that including pop, electronica and R&B, making it hard to pin down no matter how familiar it may sound.
The title track and opener sets the tone for the whole record opening with mellow keys and a synthetic drum beat running below the honey-soaked vocal. “This has never felt so right,” Clutterback sings perhaps laying down the album’s mantra. This isn’t experimental music by any means but it’s supremely written, rich modern soul music and there’s something so comfortable about it that attempts to mess with their own formula would’ve felt somewhat off-putting.
Given the cohesiveness of this record, it’s easy to talk about it as if it all moves at one pace but that’s not the case. There’s some real fun to be had here and it’s first proved on Treat You Right. Pumped along by blaring, anthemic synths they amplify their sound and deliver the most euphoric moment of the record in the process. It’s the type of music you slow dance to in the verse and then breakout on your own for the chorus. The celebratory chorus of Someone That Loves You mimicks that same feeling with Bizu’s vocals colliding with Honne’s effortlessly.
The previously-heard Coastal Love bounces along with vibrancy, textured with Nile Rodgers-esque guitar licks. While they rarely ever go for melodic detours or key changes, they pique interest through the sweet little details in the instrumentals. There’s careful attention paid to the guitar work and synths so that each song gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. At points, it’s so masterful that it sounds easy. Ironically, it’s hard to make something sound easy.
This is an album about intimacy. Throughout it’s duration there’s only ever two people in the picture and that’s why it’s so personal. It Ain’t Wrong To Love You has been brushed with gospel influences with a subtle choir in the chorus hitting right at the feels. Interestingly for a record that’s set up with the premise of being warm on a cold night, Clutterbuck is often longing for someone rather than with them. “We just click, it’s plain and simple,” he sings on It Ain’t Wrong To Love You suggesting that he finds comfort in the thought they’ll end up together eventually.
“We’re onto something beautiful,” he sings on the climatic closer FHKD. Still, they’re not in each other's presence but the hope of being on the way to something great. It’s a largely instrumental track that is delivered with the most gusto of any song on the album. The synths rattle more than ever and the drum beat feels more bolstered. We’re left with gentle sounds that ease us into the finish. It’s a soothing, gentle finish to an album that sets out to soothe the soul and succeeds.
Words by the interns' Sam Murphy for Cool Accidents.
Keep yourself warm Honne a cold night and cop their debut album this Friday from all the usual suspects.