Honey Radar - Sing the Snow Away: The Chunklet Years Music Album Reviews

A collection of catchy, lo-fi 7"s on Athens’ Chunklet shows off the Philadelphia musician Jason Henn’s bedroom-pop prowess and surreal, often funny songwriting.

Jason Henn makes hooks. In the 14 years since he started Honey Radar, the group’s only constant—besides Henn himself—has been catchy tunes. He has a seemingly unlimited ability to spin an ear-worming riff, add a simple beat, and sing some clever phrases along with it. Those kinds of skills should make Honey Radar work best as a singles act: Grab any two tracks from their catalog and you’ve got a ready-made 45 that would sound great in any diner’s jukebox.
But Honey Radar albums and EPs sound pretty great too. Like prolific songwriters Billy Childish and Robert Pollard, Henn is so creative that his tunes grab you no matter how many you hear, or in what order. Sing the Snow Away, a sparkling compilation of the 7" records Honey Radar made for Athens, Georgia, label Chunklet, is as cohesive and addictive as any of the group’s three full-length LPs. It might even be better: Henn has given Chunklet some of his most memorable material, and hearing all of it together adds extra adrenaline.

What makes the songs on Sing the Snow Away memorable is Henn’s knack for creating a classic, where-have-I-heard-this-before aura while adding idiosyncratic accents. He’s well versed in rock history: He got his first record, a Monkees album, when he was five, and his parents steered him strongly toward the Beatles (in order to keep him away from the Rolling Stones). All of those groups echo in Henn’s curved guitar lines—one of the album’s best cuts, “Telephone Betty’s Aneurysm,” sounds torn straight from Revolver—as do contemporaries such as Sic Alps and Ty Segall. Henn isn’t afraid of his influences: He covers the Monkees on Sing the Snow Away, and his peculiar choice—an obscure tune heard only on a 1969 TV special—shows the depth of his fandom.

But who you hear in Honey Radar is less important than how Henn tweaks that legacy. Much of his musical character comes out in lo-fi production values: crinkly, distorted sounds born of cheap mics and tape hiss. This anti-polish gives each track a charmingly casual, sketch-like feel, as if Henn worked out his ideas immediately after hitting the record button. But that’s deceptive: Play anything from Sing the Snow Away on repeat and you’ll soon hear how sharply structured and fully formed it actually is.

That’s especially clear when you focus on Henn’s words. Sung in a stoic, fading voice that contrasts the music’s rough energy, his lyrics can at first sound like footnotes. But eventually his twists of phrase reveal themselves to be surprisingly funny and surreal. During “Kangaroo’s Court,” over loping acoustic and electric guitars, he whispers, “Butlers hemming a navy coat/A patchwork of dull kazoos/Laughing and tapping an oily mark/A jungle gym of fragrant tattoos.” Sometimes his wordplay evokes nursery rhymes: In “Fan the Earthworm,” Henn depicts a worm whose laughs blow smoke, while “United Fox” introduces a mythical fox who “gave us the greatest sounds around.” And some of his mysterious images hint at bigger ideas. On “Medium Mary Todd,” Henn’s protagonist seems to embody the mercurial nature of creativity: “The songbird missed his prom/Look as he strolls by everything/He’s off and he is on.”

None of these intriguing verses would have the same impact without Henn’s ample supply of musical hooks. Melodies are his creative currency, and on Sing the Snow Away he spares no expense when it comes to doling out memorable themes. In lesser hands, such reliance on riffs might pound the material into a thin, dull roar. Instead, the deftness of Henn’s writing makes Honey Radar’s music grow more nuanced with every listen.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Honey Radar - Sing the Snow Away: The Chunklet Years Music Album Reviews Honey Radar - Sing the Snow Away: The Chunklet Years Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, July 07, 2020 Rating:

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