Honey Larochelle - Clean Lust and Dirty Laundry [Free Mixtape]

Honey Larochelle
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Full bodied, open, and fearless, newcomer Honey LaRochelle delivers a banquet of powerful jazz, electro-soul, hip hop and pop sounds---sometimes all at the same time. Edgier than Choklate, more accessible than RaRe Valverde and yet more avant garde than Yahzarah, a young Honey LaRochelle fills a niche left wide open for those waiting for their next Monica Blaire or even Kimberly Nichole fix. Gifted with a production team of largely unknowns--temporarily unknowns--and a few hip hop producers of stature, LaRochelle gets the privilege of gleefully singing against a kaleidoscope of seamless, yet consistently varied soundscapes. Though Clean Lust & Dirty Laundry is marketed as a mixtape, LaRochelle’s first entry in the indie game is a beautiful bauble of a risk-taking project from an artist whose musical ADD is a welcome addition to this fall’s staid fare.

Full bodied, open, and fearless, newcomer Honey LaRochelle delivers a banquet of powerful jazz, electro-soul, hip hop and pop sounds---sometimes all at the same time. Edgier than Choklate, more accessible than RaRe Valverde and yet more avant garde than Yahzarah, a young Honey LaRochelle fills a niche left wide open for those waiting for their next Monica Blaire or even Kimberly Nichole fix. Gifted with a production team of largely unknowns--temporarily unknowns--and a few hip hop producers of stature, LaRochelle gets the privilege of gleefully singing against a kaleidoscope of seamless, yet consistently varied soundscapes. Though Clean Lust & Dirty Laundry is marketed as a mixtape, LaRochelle’s first entry in the indie game is a beautiful bauble of a risk-taking project from an artist whose musical ADD is a welcome addition to this fall’s staid fare.

The self-described “Vancouver born, Texas raised, Florida reformed, Brooklyn saved, Denmark adopted, Croatian loved” singer and her producers blend so many different genres together on some of these tracks—from soul to electro-pop—that pinning down her sound is a Herculean effort. Suffice it to say that the sister paints from a palette of many colors, but the funky attitude, jazzy inflections, hip hop swagger and brightly camouflaged blues yearnings in her often co-penned lyrics align LaRochelle’s material within the ever-expanding contemporary R&B and soul tradition. 

That said, few songs here are traditionally structured or particularly linear in composition; each cut serves a mood, an attitude, or an atmosphere about relationships more than expresses building, momentum driven stories. Label-elusive cuts like producer Kannon "Caviar" Cross and Corey "oz" Simon’s (Macy Gray, Boyz In Da Hood) vaguely psychedelic “Spontaneous” lead the pack in eclectic jams with this gossamer slip of a song also serving as the album’s sole mid-tempo ballad. Sometimes these experimentations don’t work, as with production newbie Skeez’s hooky, but underwhelming and underwritten “It’s A Go.”   

When they work, the listen is exciting and unexpected. “Flight of the Honey Bee,” a delicious hip hop modernization of the boogie woogie melody line and rhyme scheme, opens the album with a cut that is simultaneously both nostalgic and futuristic thanks to some skillful production by Jesse Singer and levitating piano riffs that disappear almost as soon as they appear. It’s followed by “Gimme A Minute,” a trippy yet fairly straight-ahead rock song co-penned by Bilal (among others) and produced by Z Musik (Macy Gray, TI) that showcases the easy elasticity of LaRochelle’s impressive alto-to-mezzo-soprano instrument.

A cut that transitions more often than a Mamas Gun tune, the funky “Sugar Daddy” is a high-wire act that works almost completely by the will and vocal craft of its lead and the talents of multi-instrumentalist producer Daniel Fridell. Opening in a nearly little girl coo that almost made this listener fast forward, the song steadily unfolds into a brassy, harmonic wall of girl group “I needs,” before melodically changing again and again in ways that showcase every side of LaRochelle’s varied voices until the song itself is revealed to be a work of high avant garde art akin to a Kandinsky or a Jackson Pollock abstract, only one with a bangin’ beat for all the masses to move to. The song’s 11th hour bridge is a particularly blissful featherbed of sound.

Despite its pleasantness, it’s almost disappointing to hear LaRochelle be normal on the exceedingly more conservative Benjah Thom groove, “Keep My Cool,” a guitar-driven sampled song meant for radio and roller rinks. Only on the album’s second high note, the seductive West Indian dancehall anthem “Hold You For Life,” does the album spotlight a song whose reggae flavor is deferential to its origins but also something more. “Hold You For Life” in its sexy execution, passionate French patois rap, and Pharfar’s seamless production is elevated from today’s requisite reggaeton album cut to a bonafide, crowd-pleasing single.

Tradition doesn’t get much play once the punchy “LaLaLove” hits the stage, opening with high melodrama before transitioning into the kind of jazzy hip hop cut that Lina and Adriana had hoped to make a trend, but never quite took off. A tension-filled jam whose production is as much a metaphor for the artist’s obsessive love as her lyrics, “LaLaLove” offers a hilarious take--and voicemail chronicles--on truly “crazy” love, helping it to stand apart from the standard fare as well. It’s a song indicative of a project and an artist who on her debut too manages to stand apart, beautifully so. Highly Recommended.  

By L. Michael Gipson

 

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