OKC alternative dreampop band makes its Cowboy 2.0 debut with contemplative, atmospheric, feel-good new single
One of Mad Honey‘s greatest strengths is its ability to repurpose negative experiences into potions for the soul. Like a herpetologist milking a snake’s fang, the band takes toxic thoughts and carries them into its lab to work up songs that play like antivenom. While the lyrics retain traces of their poisonous source, they use seedlings of that knowledge to grow mature emotional defenses as the soft instruments soothe the pain. The music may not be a vaccine per se–it doesn’t prevent bad things from happening, after all–but Mad Honey boosts the spiritual immune system the way few dreampop bands do.
For a few years now, the group has been a low-key staple of the Oklahoma City indie rock scene. With soft vocals, glimmering guitars, and a relaxed rhythm section, Mad Honey radiates both in the studio and on the stage, offering tender consolation to anyone open enough to embrace it.
More recently, however, the band has modestly broadened its atmospheric sound to incorporate a slightly more upbeat tone. Last year’s single, “She’s An Angel”, heard the drums stray from its typical straight timing into more of a swing feel, directing Mad Honey’s music into a new groove. Where its retro influences have traditionally shown glimmers of downcast styles like shoegaze and post-punk, this felt like a glamorous deep cut out of new wave.
If 2020 found Mad Honey pulling back the curtains of introverted alternative haze, then 2021 sees it opening the window to let in some fresh air. “Good Grief” is the band’s first single of the year and its debut on Cowboy 2.0, the underground local record label behind the Content Farm compilation series. It releases today, and you can stream it now in this Make Oklahoma Weirder premiere.
Opening with daytime outdoor nature sounds, “Good Grief” is a conscious turn of setting. Not only does the loose rhythm return, but it also jingles with tambourine. When combined with acoustic rhythm guitar, emotive synth strings, and an all-around bright studio mix, it exemplifies just how sunny Mad Honey can get while holding on to its introspective roots.
As the title cheekily hints, “Good Grief” is an oxymoron and an idiom that is rarely considered beyond its offhanded usage as a euphemistic expletive. The band flips those connotations by taking the terms seriously and offering a thoughtful take. Sure, the chorus explains plenty with its hypothesis that “Maybe this grief can be good,” but there is still plenty to dig into lyrically. Mad Honey has a knack for conveying ideas without explaining them, and “Good Grief” ponders in nature metaphors to illustrate its balance of interpersonal and intrapersonal well-being.
While the grief of a failed relationship has its depressive tendencies, it can also be a catalyst to self-discovery, and the song makes the most of that positive spin. This is a beautiful track that feels far happier than its root cause would suggest thanks to some brilliant production and passionate performances.
“Good Grief” is handily one of Mad Honey’s best songs to date. It’s atmospherically immersive, melodically intoxicating, and brimming with layers of emotion. As antivenom goes, it doesn’t get better; this is the epitome of healing through art. Spiritual snakes are a reality of life, but with bands like Mad Honey using their talents for good, this grief-stricken world can be a bit less venomous.