Unmetal Monday // 3/23/2020

There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. As is tradition, we’ll be highlighting a few albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:

Honey Harper Starmaker

Every few years, I lock onto an album that I cannot stop listening to. This may seem a relatively normal phenomenon to some, but when you’re listening to hundreds and hundreds of new records per year(and writing about many of them), settling on one recording almost exclusively for even a week or two can have a fairly significant impact on the amount of new music ingested in a given time. It’s rare for me to concentrate more than a week of continuous listening to a record, with my last such obsessive experience being with Phoebe Bridgers’ 2017 masterpiece Stranger in the Alps. March 2020, with all its topsy turvy global and local uncertainties, has brought us Honey Harper’s stunning cosmic country debut Starmaker, one of the most distinct and gorgeous silver linings to intense circumstances I can recall. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since its release, and I’ve no intention of stopping any time soon. 

Fans of country music’s most recent genre-bending, classics-revering releases from the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Sturgill Simpson will find themselves right at home in the spacey, lush compositions Georgia born, London-based William Fussell unfurls with startling patience and grace. Opener “Green Shadows”, with its effects heavy vocal introduction and atmospheric/synth-forward instrumentals, should give listeners a clear indication of what they’re getting themselves into. This ain’t your daddy’s classic country. But the spirit of the genre, and many of its standard instrumental flourishes, are a constant presence throughout. The drawling, almost lazy guitar melodies of “In Light of Us” and the acoustic/rhythmic accompaniment to Fussell’s gentle vocals in “The Day It Rained Forever” are distinctly reverential of country’s roots without falling into simplified caricature, which is a balance Fussell strikes beautifully throughout Starmaker. 

With all its firm grounding in country music’s foundational sounds, it’s the tracks that depart most heavily from that formula that showcase the true magic of Honey Harper as a project. “Suzuki Dreams”, with all its orchestral bluster and isolated vocal balladry, is one of my favorite tracks that I’ve heard in any genre in years. The Simon and Garfunkel folk of “Vaguely Satisfied” is another distinct highlight, featuring an ear worm of a chorus that has been floating around my brain constantly for nearly a month. It’s one of the few records I’ve heard in a long time that I deeply believe fans of country, psych, folk, and indie rock may enjoy in equal measure. It hits every genre-melding note it attempts with near-perfect precision, making Starmaker one of the best debut records that I’ve heard since Bridgers’ above-mentioned classic. 

I cannot praise this record highly enough. There is zero doubt in my mind that Starmaker will be prominently placed in my year-end list, and tearing myself away from it to listen to other music has been extremely difficult as of late. But exceptional music is meant to be enjoyed, relished, and given occupying space in the general bustle surrounding our lives, so I won’t allow myself to get too stressed about the proverbial stack of records in my inbox that have yet to be heard. Since we’re stuck at home, there’s plenty of time to catch up. But maybe after one more spin…

Jonathan Adams

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