Despite the somewhat niche, big band style foundation of Amy Lynn and the Honeymen, there remains a timelessness to the soul inspired, New York City based ensemble. Even in the face of rapidly changing listening trends, the group’s music never feels out of place or time and this sentiment holds true with their new single “Emotional Mess.”
Lead vocalist Amy Lynn and bold baritone saxophonist Alex Hamlin set up the band’s signature soulful, jazzy sound which, this time around, is supported by the likes of Otis McDonald on vocals, drums, percussion, keys; Mike Chiavaro on bass; and Eric Krasno on guitar. All together the group delivers an introspective and intention filled song that’s focused on sticking by one’s partner even amidst ebbs and flows of emotional insecurity. Though the title of the track teases a wild and possibly frenetic affair, the underlying tempo, stomp style groove, descending chord motif, and overall temperament of the song make for a relatively reserved confessional cut. The subdued nature of the song may feel like a surprising choice, knowing that “Emotional Mess” is the band’s first original release in eight years, following 2014 debut LP Don’t Step on the Glitter, the recording of assorted covers, and a non-brass arranged original from 2018 titled “Mama” that features Amy Lynn with piano and string accompaniment. Still, there’s something to be said for exercising some restraint after so long, rather than blasting the hinges off the doors with a piercing, hard, and fast number.
For one thing, going this route underscores just how recognizable and appreciated Amy Lynn’s strong but versatile vocals can be among both established fans and new listeners. She doesn’t need to be the loudest, fastest, or navigate the most rash run of notes to make someone care to pay attention and hear her sing. Choosing to infuse a slower and more delicate song with that much more feeling leads to just as memorable a result. Hamlin’s voice cuts through clear and strong as ever, as “Emotional Mess” unfolds with a smooth and sultry opening verse. Employing the touch of sass and precise enunciation she’s always had at her disposal, Amy Lynn draws one’s ear to her voice with these striking qualities and then proceeds to gently lead whoever is listening through every curve, spiral, twist and turn of the lyrics and the melody spun by Alex Hamlin and-or the backing Honeymen players.
I’m over heated
Can’t hardly sleep at night
Doin crazy dreaming
You’re the reason why
– Lyrics from “Emotional Mess”
The slight echo heard on the release of small cymbal splashes, wooden percussive ticks, and that’s coated over Hamlin’s saxophone notes, all stoke the fire of imagination. Their lingering tones, swirling together before fading away make the music seem somehow surrounded by the faintest wisps of steam or smoke. This visual association only enhances the the mood of the song, making the steadily building and pent up feelings Amy Lynn refers to as the song goes on, feel that much more up close and palpable. It’s another set of subtle artistic choices, with the arrangement of co-writer Joe Bagale and the production of Otis McDonald giving the music small but memorable bits of extra sonic character, without which the message might not have stuck quite as well.
The only reason this particular approach to the flow of the song may have benefitted from a more pronounced pivot is because of just how seamless the sections are. While the lyrics do carve out a distinct pre-chorus in the song, with a transition to the chorus following immediately thereafter, the dynamics and melody itself at that moment of change don’t work together in a way that make the declarative start of the chorus, (Yes, Yes, I’m an emotional mess) really come through in a decisive and self-contained way that would seem appropriate for such a statement –– almost in a “sorry, not sorry” kind of declarative manner. Additionally, a more pronounced performative distinction, perhaps from either a bold note, beat, or burst of vocal intensity, would serve well as a moment to call listeners back and stamp the unified sound of Amy Lynn and the Honeymen in their minds, before pulling back again. The heightened degree of contrast could have enhanced the impact of the song’s message to be sure but the more smooth transition fits well with the initial attitude of the song so having one or the other doesn’t reflect a weakness in writing as much as it’s simply a matter of personal stylistic writing preference.
All in all, Amy Lynn and the Honeymen have made a delightful reemergence with “Emotional Mess” – a song that ironically, is quite neat in its structure and performance. There’s no telling where this one song will lead to next but with the band’s creative gears now nice and and warmed up, perhaps the music next to come will have the heat turned up just a few clicks.