Honeysuckle Weeks is that rare sophomore album that outdoes the debut. On the album, the Submarines become massive musical personalities, flex their lyrical muscles to the point of inspiration, and take instrumental risks in the pursuit of grandeur. It's partially luck, and partially talent the ensures that it all comes together so nicely. In the end, what sticks with the listener are the ten songs with incredibly positive and hopeful lyrics dressed in the costumes of the book of Revelations. These songs acknowledge pain, hate, deception, greed, apathy, and the possibility of ultimate self-destruction, but all in a way that doesn't discount the overwhelming power of love to conquer all (and no matter you believe, this is something that everyone should believe. It's one of the few things worth believing in!).
We'll begin at the beginning with "Submarine Symphonika" which has faux-Operatic intentions. Blake Hazzard croons about burning cities and broken hearts, but turns it around with that unforgettably redemptive quality of love: you can't help falling into it, even when you've been hurt. The instrumental progression of the song is less enchanting than the lyrics, but even here I find something attractive in the playfulness. These songs deal with intense subjects, but they steer clear of sounds that are either too precious or too common, and come up with a blend that never gets tiring for very long. "Thorny Thicket" combines hip-hop beats and the Baroque sounds of Henry Purcell, under a vocal celebration of (what else?) love. The third song on the album ends up being the best however. "You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie" is explores the guilt of living in "the center of the first world". Hazzard again asks a thought-provoking question "who are we to break down?", and counters with the assertion that:
"Everyday we wake up. We choose love, we choose light, and we try. It's too easy just to fall apart."
And it is, isn't it? Even with all of our stuff, even with all of our opportunities, and all kinds of experiences laid out before us, it is human nature to be unsatisfied and to forget all of the things we have. "1940" follows with a southern Pacific island feeling, and a beat similar to a pack of wandering elephants. It's probably the most interesting song on the album musically, and even lyrically it verges on a dreamlike state of enlightenment (albeit, one that sounds rather drug-induced). "The Wake Up Song" follows with the zipping, buzzing intensity of life being lived. The vocal delivery see-saws between "breaking news" and the voice inside your head, and the lyrics are clock-like in their persistence. "Swimming Pool" utilizes those indelible metaphors of swimming in the deep end, and being saved by love. "Maybe" follows "Swimming Pool" with a main vocal by Hazzard's fellow submarine John Dragonetti, who sings a song about unknowns and variables. "Xavia" celebrates the fact that everyone has troubles, and that we're all united by our uncertainty; while "Fern Beard" is a slightly melancholy description of an overgrown city and the most computerized-sounding of any song on the album. We're lucky that the album doesn't finish with "Fern Beard", but with "Brightest Hour" which strikes me as a slightly more positive song. It still carries the sadness and finality of the end of any good story, but "Brightest Hour" also has the features of a happy ending, and is a perfect choice for the conclusion of Honeysuckle Weeks.
In the next few weeks, you'll probably read a lot about the Submarines and their new album. Their music has already had a write-up in Spin, and as the album's release date gets closer, it's evident (to me at least) that there will be quite a lot of buzz surrounding Honeysuckle Weeks. Remember that the good, the bad, and the ugly that you read, is only ever a shadow of the music that you hear. Try to listen with open ears; and whatever you do, try to enjoy.