Honne’s new 14 track mixtape no song without you was released July 3rd 2020, and it’s still absolutely breathtaking. Now, this may sound dangerous in the current climate but I assure you, this release is rejuvenating.
The band themselves consists of Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher who combined forces in Bow back in 2014 after meeting at University. They have come a long way from playing unreleased music in a friend’s cafe on Roman Road, recently selling out Brixton Academy after a world tour. I find this pretty inspiring as I write this from my flat on Roman Road, but their music does convey a sense of inspiration and wonder, even without this personal anecdote.
The electro-soul duo suggests their goal is for people “to feel warmth, comfort and reassurance” but also that they produce the “kind of music you listen to on a drive late at night in a city with the windows down”. This reinforces their name which originates from the Japanese term for “true feelings”(本音); the type of emotions which we tend to hide in front of others. In contrast to their recording label, Tatemae, this is what their deeply personal writing strives to represent.
For more on the bands’ history check out this mini-documentary they released after the popularity of their first EP All In the Value.
no song without you has been self-described as a sidestep for the band; the music is considerably more stripped-down than some of their previous releases. Apart from some funky autotune on ‘our love will never die’ the more minimalist arrangement of this album has led “to some of their most accessible music to date”.
Honne themselves have affirmed that “it’s ok for things to sound a bit rough, rather than going into the studio and compressing guitars over and over”. This is explained by over a third of the record being recorded between LA and their studio in Hackney during the quarantine. The tumultuous time even resulted in a song named ’s o c i a l d i s t a n c i n g’.
This rougher sound mimics the sort of imperfection found in the human relationships they centre their music around. Despite this, I would still argue this album embodies an idealised kind of love that we all dreamt about as teenagers, the kind that is toted throughout 90s Rom-Coms – minus all of the underlying misogyny, of course.
With some essence of Rex Orange County, the peaceful romance is epitomised by the track which gives its namesake to the mixtape as well as ‘by my side’. The wholesome love songs leave you feeling all cosy inside, especially as ‘by my side’ throws you off track. The band uses a phrase that has negative connotations thanks to The Fray and flips it on its head:
“where were you when I needed you most? You were by my side”.
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The whole album feels like a warm hug; a catharsis. The last track on the record, ‘smile more’ stands out in this regard and Andy, one half of the duo, claims he feels “strongly connected” to it. I felt partially attacked by this number but in a very good, encouraging way. A line from the song sums up why very succinctly:
“Feel the sun on your face.. don’t dwell on Instagram, there are far better things to do than that”.
The overwhelming positivity portrayed in this tune and throughout the mixtape is refreshing. Emphasised even more by how the songs flow seamlessly together, despite the brilliance of the individual tracks, it’s a piece of art as a whole.
The mixtape is also accompanied by the sweetest, dreamy illustrated music videos. Holly Warbs perfectly captures the essence of the new release through these animations, plus she included a little cartoon dog playing the piano, so, I’m sold. The cool-toned collections of a love story between a lightbulb and a somehow cute sewer monster set against a backdrop of starry skies are something I would happily spend another 20 odd minutes watching.
Although this new mixtape is satiating enough, Honne doesn’t plan to keep us waiting long for even more new music, telling l’officiel: “We’re gonna write another album. We can’t get enough”. As no strangers to collaborations, this could hopefully involve Phoebe Bridgers who they’ve said they would most like to collaborate with next. In the meantime, I cannot urge you strongly enough to check out Honne’s stunning new no song without you, because, at worst you may just smile a little bit more.