Samia wants you to like her. On her excellent 2020 debut, The Baby, she ate apple cider vinegar-and-kale salads, danced for party guests, and urged you to be her friend: anything to mold herself into palatable shapes for the amusement of others. Her second album Honey is more of the same, tracing moments where she is willing to perform and charm her way into a good impression, even when it comes at an emotional cost. This tension lays at the heart of the record, and the best moments on Honey bring this frustration to the surface in visceral ways.
On “Mad At Me,” for example, Finnerty conjures the urgency of a racing heartbeat with her soaring voice and the four-on-the-floor pulse of Rostam’s bass-synth. “Mad At Me” is the album’s primary pop song and its only moment dedicated to the dance floor. But it also contains some of Samia’s truest lyrics. She summarizes Honey in an instant, “Hurts to be somewhere/Cuz you gotta stay there/After you say what’s on your mind.” Her best writing works in this way, unfurling the awkwardness of a moment in two little lines.
Honey’s true centerpiece is “Breathing Song,” a minimalist track that traces four moments of emotional fatigue in little vignettes. By the end, she’s a pressure cooker: “And after you finished/You asked if I was crying/No no no.” She bellows out into a crescendo, unable to compact herself any longer. Her exhaustion at her own people-pleasing is palpable. The song’s final yell is a defining moment on Honey. It breaks through the record’s tepid surface with the jolting force of her vocal, hitting the wall like a shockwave. “Breathing Song,” and much of Honey, relies on little else besides the precision of Samia’s voice to carry out the song. She pulls it off since she has vocals as smooth as a playground slide, gliding out emotional traumas like skates on ice.
But for the majority of the record, Samia seems more than happy to placate herself with honey, sweetening the hurt with artificial sugar. “Sea Lions” sketches the same set of grievances as “Breathing Song,” using muted piano chords as a landing pad for Samia’s intrusive thoughts. Lines like “You’re looking at me like I’m the stranger here” float in its space. When the song expands into a bubbling dance break, it doesn’t take. Her monologues deserve the careening force of “Is There Something In The Movies?” and instead receive a decidedly chill and stunted beat.
Her recent move to Nashville is evident in the Tennessee glow of songs like “Amelia” and “Charm You.” The sounds of Honey are as warm and inviting as whiskey, but sometimes they lose the captivating turmoil of her neuroses. The title track is similarly placid. “It’s all honey,” she sighs comfortably on its chorus. For a song that’s supposed to suggest that things are not all honey, it’s a bit too convincing that everything is okay. While the rest of Honey battles with its own growing-up, on “Dream Song,” Samia reaches the final destination of her solemn aching. It’s a quiet arrival, and a moment that earns its amber-toned guitars and harmonies, rather than agitates against them. It takes an album of dwelling, but Honey ends in a place that merits the rich sweetness of its title.
Honey is out tomorrow.