Athens-based pop project Honeychild—the brainchild of longtime local songwriter SJ Ursrey—follows up last year's warm, wispy American Beach with another heavily themed collection, having traveled "from the shore to the prom," according to the band. The clubby, cagey Surrender is a new-wave nostalgia trip through and through, ear candy for '70s and '80s babies on a throwback binge.
The album is lush and gorgeous, though it is also often unsettling. Upbeat opener "Make Out" is a synth-pop gem, a future-party mixtape staple that sets a misleading pace: As things progress, angst bubbles up. On American Beach, sunny sonics shed light on heartbreak and pain. Restlessness likewise pervades Surrender, as evidenced by "I Knew," a brutally ambivalent, grey-sky love song, one of my favorite local tracks of the year.
As has been the case with much of his recent work, including the latest from Dream Boat (a group with which Ursrey is also involved), engineer Suny Lyons is the album's secret star. Lyons' chasmic, synth-heavy studioscapes are impossibly dense but never overbearing; I can't think of another local producer who can claim as precise a sonic identity. Neither he nor Honeychild has ever sounded better than here.
Honeychild plays Hendershot's Coffee Bar on Sunday, Dec. 7.