Honeybabe Album Review: In Living Memory

Versatile Quintet Perform Saturday, May 11, at the Loving Touch

Local quintet Honeybabe’s forthcoming album In Living Memory is as hauntingly emotional, albeit more subtly, as Radiohead’s ‘Ok Computer.’ The difference is that the heaviness of the lyrical content is inverted by warmer textures and surplus ebullience; it is definitely brighter in tone than your average esoteric indie-rock. The arrangements consistently match the catharsis threaded into the lyrics, matching sorrow with measured crescendos of gritty noise amid the gloss.

The album all but bursts with its opening song “Hide My Dreams,” running along at an energizing pace with pop-rock riffs and crooning vocals, even going so far as to call out to the “sunny skies…” But like a great modern rock opera, the song has a second, moodier, murkier movement, descending into a piano-led suite where the guitars become somber and the drums evaporate. It’s a bold opener: 90 seconds of pure plucky pop that darkens into two extensive minutes of lyric-free mood-setting.

This balance of light and dark continues with “Everything Happens For A Reason” surfing over the hum of an organ and propelled by a danceable drum pattern and funky guitar riffs. That fatalistic title is melodically intoned through the choruses, but while it starts out calm and almost meditative, towards the bridge, it builds and churns until finally, it roils over the brim, fueled by the frustration, confusion, and wistfulness of grief.

“Letting The Boys In” is another track that fits their aesthetic dichotomy; another fresh and radiant tempo, summery timbres, and slickly expressive instrumental phrasings, but the lyrics sting like a dead-of-winter breeze.

Honeybabe self-identify as “psychrockjazzpunk,” and the charm their songs is that you’ll typically hear all of those in a fine fusion. In Living Memory is about finding the balance that’s necessary for any emotional recovery: “take me away from this darkness again…keep me sane…” as pianist/guitarist Michael La Bella sings in “And Again.” His vocal melody in that song is augmented by the harmonies of Drew Bartosik (guitar/piano), and Matthew McBrien (on guitar); the rhythm section is ever versatile to accommodate the shift of moods, with Danny Despart (on bass) and Austin Keith (on drums).

The band has been together six years now; this is their second full-length album, in addition to a handful of EPs and singles. While In Living Memory finds them reaching a new level of experimentation, their signature flair for channeling a storm of complex emotions into an arrangement that can feel like pop, funk, or jazz, remains a constant. It’s not denying or discounting the inevitability of heartache, but it’s also not resigned to blocking out the sunshine.  

You can see Honeybabe at the Loving Touch on Saturday, May 11th where they’ll be celebrating the release of In Living Memory.


  • Jeff Milo
    Jeff Milo is the host of "MI Local" on 101.9 WDET. He's a longtime music journalist documenting the Michigan scene for 20 years.