Two years after their self-titled debut, Gothenburg-based Pale Honey return with Devotion. The title may draw up an image of pathetically pining after an ended relationship, of lamentations for a lost love. But with the forceful nature of the tracks, Devotion isn’t about expressing the desire to return to something that is not meant to be. The devotion on this album is instead presented as a pillar of strength, a drive to take care of others and to take care of oneself.
Pale Honey’s second LP forms a more cohesive idea than their debut, centred specifically around devotion and resilience. The tracks contribute to the album as a whole, and the result is more than a mere collection of singles. In their press release, the band members admit to making this mistake in the past: “Our debut album included songs that we wrote as teenagers and settled for anything that sounded good. For Devotion, we became extremely picky and left out a lot of songs that are good, but just didn’t fit in together or didn’t feel good enough”. By approaching the album with a mature goal in mind, the result is cohesive and enrapturing.
While many of the songs could stand as powerhouses of their own (‘Get These Things Out of My Head’ and ‘Real Thing’ immediately spring to mind), the slower interludes (‘777 [Devotion Pt. 2]’ and ‘Sweep’) are just as viscous and present. ‘Get These Things Out of My Head’ thrashes about to express singer/guitarist Tuva Lodmark’s frustration of living with OCD. In the ’The Heaviest of Storms’, a thunderous drop of guitar distortion rumbles the listeners from their trance-like state. Throughout ‘Real Thing’, we hear a Goat-esque single note guitar line driving the entire song forward until its tapered-off ending.
The softer side is found in the interludes of the album. ‘777 (Devotion Pt. 2)’ is the gentlest track on the album, with vocals trailing off in breathless turns of phrase that bring Warpaint’s Emily Kokal to mind. The vocals in final track ‘Why Do I Always Feel This Way’, with harmonies weaving over and under one another, are as evocative as Warpaint’s deep cuts— think ‘CC’, or ‘Drive’. Pale Honey seem to have this style mastered, jetting out feathery vocals atop a slightly swaying instrumental foundation.
Devotion‘s combination of strength and vulnerability makes for an honest and poignant representation of what it means to love another, and what it means to love oneself.