Honey Clouds

photo/Rise Photography
photo/Rise Photography

Honey Clouds
Cover the Forest
Peapod Recordings

Click to hear: “Of Course

Honey Clouds is 2-0. That’s two winning albums, no losers. (They also won their single preseason outing, 2008’s Earl Grey Demos, most of which was polished up to become last year’s Fall on the Honey Clouds.)

Cover the Forest — scheduled for release in late May on Clouds guitarist Ron Harrity’s Peapod Recordings — isn’t a great leap forward for the indie-rock quartet, but it’s a step in the right direction. They’ve made a great sound a little better. (For comparison, see More Songs About Buildings and Food vs. Talking Heads: 77.)

Unlike its predecessor, which was weighed down by a couple six-minute stones, nothing drags on Forest. It’s a poppier, more energetic record. Bassist Mandy Wheeler contributes considerably more backing vocals, and a couple tracks have horns.

Singer/guitarist Trey Hughes is still singing about walking around town, the weather, and piles of junk. Consider this another contender for Local Rock Album of the Summer (see the Foam Castles review for more on that race).

The Velvet Underground’s influence really comes through on this release’s more laidback tracks, like “Kites and Balloons” and “Crumble on the Shore” (the guitar tone on the latter is pure Loaded, and they go so far as to title-check “Who Loves the Sun” on “Stormy Roux”). Come to think of it, Hughes’ voice has Lou Reed’s flatness, too. It works.

“Of Course” has a bouncy, bassy riff that really sticks in your grey matter. “Nester” staggers along to a cool rhythm supplied by drummer Sean Wilkinson (our founding art director). The upbeat chorus on “Boots Boots” is buoyed by some choice organ.

The only track that bugs me here is “Fever Rabbit.” The lo-fi intro is actually a lot more fun than the noisy, disjointed song that overtakes it almost a minute in. Sometimes when you try to rough a song up, you end up breaking it.

Honey Clouds buys that one, but to extend the earlier sports analogy, that still leaves them 11 for 12 on Forest. An above-average album, and then some.

— Chris Busby

Honey Clouds plays a CD release show, with Foam Castles and Tan Vampires, on Fri., May 28, at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, at 9:30 p.m. Tix: $6 (18+). peapodrecordings.com.