The Submarines

Honeysuckle Weeks

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Less than four years ago, John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard were estranged lovers with a talent for penning pretty pop songs about heartache. Declare a New State! captured that brief period, mixing cheerless lyrics like "Ain't no sunshine gonna take away this rain" with sunny, drum-machined instrumentation. The album also had a therapeutic effect, as Dragonetti and Hazard ultimately reconciled their differences and married each other before its release. Arriving two years later, Honeysuckle Weeks captures the happy couple living in Los Angeles, a town whose summery weather lends a glow to this second batch of pop songs, indie electronica, and co-ed charm. "Your love finds you even when you've given it up," Hazard sings in the opening track, "Submarine Symphonika," neatly setting the tone for Honeysuckle Weeks' ten offerings of relief and optimism. From a vocal standpoint, this is the Hazard show, and all but three songs feature her unadorned vocals at the forefront. Meanwhile, Dragonetti whips up a cloud of vintage dub loops, guitar arpeggios, programmed percussion, and assorted bleeps and bloops, largely composing the band's bubbling instrumentation from the sidelines. Both bandmates sound elated to have moved past the heartbroken themes of Declare a New State!, and they avoid that album's biggest pitfall -- its inability to tackle any subject other than the pair's breakup -- by turning their love into a metaphor for plant renewal ("Fern Beard," "Thorny Thicket"), sunlight ("The Brightest Hour"), and a bottomless swimming pool ("Swimming Pool"). Honeysuckle Weeks may not be as immediately captivating as the band's debut, but it's certainly a much smarter effort, with the Submarines proving that inspiration lies in both ends of the emotional spectrum.

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