Album art by Laura Hamon
On their second full-length studio album, Midnight Morning, folk-pop duo Honey Magpie takes their gift for harmony into new territory. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina duo comprises of Rachel Hurwitz and Pippa Hoover. While their 2017 self-titled debut is firmly rooted in folk instrumentation with classical strings, Midnight Morning sees the band mixing a little more glitter with their potting soil by shifting harder into the pop music realm.
Midnight Morning's eponymous opening track is driven by a thumping electric bassline and a steady drumbeat, while fellow Chapel Hill folkie Joseph Terrell, of Mipso fame, settles his tremelo-heavy electric guitar amid the band's familiar string arrangements. Over this new musical landscape, Hurwitz brings the listener along for a late-night drive, "into the night, starlight, dark moon/...leaving behind empty dark rooms." Right out of the gate, Honey Magpie lets the listener know that Midnight Morning is going to be a brand new journey.
"Dancing Under a Rainbow" is as sparkly as its title may suggest. Featuring doo-wop vocals and a lush string arrangement, the track is evocative of Electric Light Orchestra at their mid-seventies prime. For all that is going on musically, it should be noted that Hurwitz and Hoover have a gift for crafting evocative images. "Misery followed me like a thunderstorm/ It hurt like hail to the heart and lightning to the soul." Such naturalistic pictures are prevalent throughout the entire project, reminding us that they are a folk band at heart.
Photography by Flate Photography
Midnight Morning holds onto the folk tradition of appropriating the past to reveal a truth in the present. "Baggage and Walls" beautifully deconstructs the trope of the lonesome cowboy, seeking to appeal to his fair maiden as her only path to relevance and validation. Our cowboy in question is NC songwriter Charles Latham, who asks "Hey little lady, aren't your arms getting tired/ Dragging that weight around?" to which our "little lady"responds "I've been hauling this weight around my whole life long/ Built my home up safe and strong." Those arms are doing just fine, partner.
"Smallest Grains of Sand" closes the album and reminds us of what makes Honey Magpie so refreshing. Lush strings, pining vocals, and an understated guitar/drum rhythm combo all seamlessly flow together to evoke a sense of longing and nostalgia. As Midnight Morning's opening track confidently invited the listener along for a rollicking journey into the dark, "Smallest Grains of Sand" finds us at the end of the road looking back and asking: what have we learned?
Midnight Morning is an inspired album that succeeds where many sophomore albums do not - it builds upon the artists' strengths as exemplified by their debut release, while confidently exploring new territory.
Midnight Morning was produced by Jerry Brown and recorded at The Rubber Room in Chapel Hill, NC and features additional performances by Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange, James Wallace, and Alex Bingham. Midnight Morning is now streaming on all platforms. You can learn all about Honey Magpie at honeymagpie.com