Indie folk-rock duo Hey, King!’s debut album is intense and heartfelt.
The self-titled ‘Hey, King!’ is the first full-length album from the indie-folk duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Natalie London and percussionist Taylor Plecity. Some of these songs appeared on their earlier EP ‘Be Still,’ which was also produced by Ben Harper.
Prior to meeting Plecity and beginning their collaboration, London was seriously ill with Lyme Disease, contracted while a university student. The debilitating level of her illness meant that she was bedridden for nearly four years, and while still full of creative ideas, unable to fully realize her ambitions until her health improved. Her recovery and added inspiration of a new partner and collaborator give her material a palpable urgency. London writes about their romantic relationship, naturally, and it sounds a real doozy. If there’s ever a dull moment between them, she chose not to write about it on this album.
Plecity is a powerful percussionist whose talents are shown on heartland rockers like ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Half Alive.’ London’s and Plecity’s voices sound fantastic together, particularly on quieter moments (‘Morning’) that bring to mind Ann and Nancy Wilson or Johanna and Klara Söderberg. Dirty bluesy rock brings out the jagged edges of London’s voice on ‘Road Rage,’ with the great line “I get road rage when I’m walking home.” She also delves into bittersweet folk (‘Holy,’ ‘Sing Me to Sleep’) and Waxahatchee/Hop Along indie rock howls of insecurity. London pulls no punches here: her emotional states are unflinchingly intimately portrayed. The ambivalent-avoidant self-doubt she feels in her relationship careens from vulnerability straight off the nearest cliff into desperate neediness, like the country folk of ‘Don’t Let Me Get Away.’ While love is universal and non-gendered, women writing about women has a distinct emotional character.
There are careful touches, like the horns on the romantic, exhilarating ‘Half Alive’ and the delicate harp on ‘Sing Me to Sleep.’ ‘Walk’ has a hypnotic, mournful gypsy folk and 1950s Parisian cafe vibe, which in less capable hands would have included a ukulele. It includes one of the album’s best lines: “I’m only lonely with you” as well as a hint of fey Lana Del Rey self-destructiveness: “When I ride my belt is never tied / my windows always down on either side of me / just in case I need a quick escape / when I drive into the sea.”
‘Hey, King!’ is a raw blast of indie-folk and Americana rock inspired by new infatuation and gratitude, balanced by anxious late-night rumination.