Honey Cutt is the project of Boston-via-Florida singer-songwriter Kaley Honeycutt. Whilst she cut her teeth playing in New England, she put out a couple of EPs under the moniker Baby!, including 2018’s Sunny F.L. Cut to 2020, and with a name change, it’s time for the project’s debut album: Coasting.
If you like your indie served with a large dose of jangling guitars and shimmering instrumentals, then Coasting could be you next favourite album. But don’t be distracted. Hidden just below that shiny shimmering surface lies the emotional and personal heart of the record. It’s the classic ploy of pop/rock songwriters have been using for years. Hook them in with the bright sounds and then hit them with a solid dose of reality in the lyrics.
Kaley Honeycutt’s Florida upbringing is a big influence on the album, and not just on the record’s surf rock sound. As a child Kaley and her family relocated from North Carolina to Florida to take care of an ailing grandmother. The rental house they’d put a payment on turned out to be a scam. So the family arrived in Florida with no money, no home and medical bills to pay. As you can expect it turned out to be something of an itinerant childhood, moving often through central Floria whilst saving up for a new place. It has certainly instilled a relentless drive to create and perform her art from sweaty dingy basements to small bars and beyond.
It has also influenced her songwriting. “Suburban Dream” with tongue firmly planted in cheek tackles her desperation to ‘break out’. Whilst, title track “Coasting” touches on the determination to keep it together mentally, despite the pressures of poverty and all that brings. As Honeycutt describes the track “is about trying to hold it together and be strong for my family.” It’s a powerful track. It is bright, bold and shimmering but all with that subtle mournful undercurrent hiding underneath. Honeycutt’s vocals really hit the sweet spot on that one too.
Album opener, “Vacation”, is another highlight. On the face of it, the track is the perfect antidote to autumnal/winter blues. It’s a proper summer pop jam. But, once again listen a little closer, and the track is revealed to be a critique of “nice guy” culture. It’s pointed, cutting and oh so good. Those “nice guys” and the wealthy art school scene they often tend to frequent also come in for further criticism on “Fashion School”.
“All I Have” is quietly devastating, with Honeycutt’s vocals really giving the track its emotional edge. “Gentleness” is a further favourite. It’s different enough from the rest of the album to really stand out for me. Indeed, if there is one complaint I do have with the whole record, is that does come close to all sounding a little too similar. But, Honeycutt and co, seem to manage to drop a circuit breaker into the track listing just at the right time. “Love Me, Still” is a fitting closer. A bit of a slow burner, it’s the kind of song that has the potential to get bigger live.
With its sunny and jangly exterior and its lyrical realism and vulnerability Coasting is a solid debut. Honey Cutt don’t really put a foot wrong across the album’s ten tracks. Its smart, shimmering and features a superb lead vocal performance. Come for the sun-kissed surf rock vibes, but stay for the honest and biting lyricism.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Header Photo: Omari Spears