The debut album by local group Honeychild is disturbing, beautiful, nostalgic, dreamy and wounded—one hell of a good record. The album features 10 tracks of “beach music,” but American Beach is no party. The ukelele is used gently, never played in the recognizable fashion. Indeed, the only song on the album that could possibly be called "upbeat" is “Love Me Right,” which has a neat Waikiki-esque rhythm. Everything else exists in a half-buried atmosphere of dreamlike haze where the instrumentation is sparse even when the tempos are quick.
The name “Honeychild” takes on such a different meaning when fully contextualized, losing its cheek, humor and casual soul. Were it to include a comma (i.e., "honey, child"), it might seem a statement of comfort or empathy; indeed, there is something here that's supposed to be comforting, but I can't find it. After two solid weeks of playing American Beach, I'm weepy, agitated and, at times, unnerved by it.
A broken heart bleeds all over the record, though the source of the pain is hidden. The lyrics are secreted deeply behind slap-back waves of reverb and, although confidently sung by Honeychild mastermind SJ Ursrey, only reveal themselves intermittently. Every song is indecipherable but wordy, requiring the listener to make up lyrics for himself. It's a trick that has certainly added to the mystique of bands throughout history (R.E.M., anyone?), but I don't think Honeychild has any designs on being mysterious.
American Beach is beach music mostly insofar as the beach is an idea as much as a physical place, a final destination as much as a point of entry. Depending on one's own psyche, the album should fill at least one of those roles. 4 out of 5.