music review: Be Calm Honcho

honcho dreams

Coming up with band names can’t be an easy thing. Be Calm Honcho threw me for a bit of a loop with its unusual nomenclature. Not a Beck song. Not Spanish or Hacienda-infused. According to Merriam-Webster, honcho means a person who is in charge of other people.

The San Francisco-based alt-pop band utilizes an eclectic mélange of instrumentation and arrangement. Honcho Dreams is a collection of smart, dramatic songs in the vein of Laurie Anderson or Neko Case. Spoken word poetry set to music. Quirky. Distinctive.

Vocalist Shannon Harney transforms her voice in imaginative, unusual ways. Featuring a superb melody and powerful, sultry vocals, the opener “Step Out” lingers in my head for hours after I’ve heard it. Swanky and edgy “Mean Pack” has the sing-speak lyrics: “without people we are a person/ clean as the snow and gone with the wind/ but with people we are everybody/ expansive as the skyline and here/ like we are here.” There’s the slower, prettier “Pretty on the West Coast” and darker “Always My Fault.” On “Each Day” it sounds as if Harney’s uvula is vibrating and quivering. Her vocals sound that exotic. Be Cool Honcho will take you to unique places. As music should. Twangy, grooving, a bit jazzy, explosive, subdued. Strange abundance.

Honcho Dreams
Crossbill Records [June 24, 2014]

purchase at Amazon: Be Calm Honcho – Honcho Dreams

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