Smoldering synths? Check. Enticing velveteen vocals? Check. Promise to bring sexy back and/or create electronic music with a soul? Check. And there you have the essence of HONNE, well, not just HONNE, but also Jungle, Blood Orange, Shura, the Invisible, etc. etc. The pattern here is that HONNE are one of the latest bands in the latest indie genre-crossover -- remember when rave culture was co-opted ten years ago? Not to suggest that this trend is particularly new -- Blood Orange emerged from his Lightspeed cocoon over five years ago. If anything, the union between soul, R&B, and indie is at its peak, with an audience that's equal parts aware and hungry for more. HONNE, then, are at an advantage with their rousing slow jams, achieved by keeping their tempos generally low, yet layering enough swooping vocals and upbeat synths to keep energy levels consistently high.
The key concept for an indie-soul act is the production value. Warm on a Cold Night does not disappoint in that respect. The greatest example is the title track, which was first heard back in 2015. Comparing the album version with the EP version shows just how much they've honed their sound in the studio. The latest rendition is more full-bodied, with warmer, rounder synths that are as soft as they can get without tipping too far into a soporific void. The same can be said for the other tracks that have fallen on public ears in the past -- roughly a third of the album is re-recorded material. Luckily, the new songs here aren't just filler between pre-existing singles; in fact, there are so many standouts that any of these songs could work as a single. With that in mind, there are two huge testaments to this debut. First, for an album jammed with hooks, singalong choruses, and festival-ready anthems, it flows extremely well. Second, the lead single and Izzy Bizu collaboration, "Someone That Loves You," still sounds like it really should be the lead single. The brightness is turned up, and Bizu's vocal is melded seamlessly into the mix to create noticeable vibrancy in a sea of highlights.
It would be futile to mention all of the high points here -- they're featured in every track. You've got the skipping percussion in "Treat You Right," the gospel-infused choruses in "It Ain't Wrong Loving You," and the pulsating build-up in closing track "FHKD." Honestly, you could pick a track at random and find something to enjoy. The only down side to such consistency is the lyrical themes -- perhaps endemic for many artists straddling the soul boundary -- and their focus on love and relationships. A difficult obstacle to get around given the mood they're going for, but all the same it does get a bit tiresome toward the album's close. It's better to focus on the delivery then, and let the sultry vibes wash over you, or suck you in, as ultimately that's HONNE's real intention here.