Album Review: Robyn’s ‘Honey’

Eight years can be several eternities in the music world, and it’s a very long time for an artist to go without releasing a new album. But if you’re Sade, D’Angelo or, evidently, pop savant Robyn, you can take your sweet time, because your fans trust that it will be worth the wait.

Indeed, after leading the smart-alt-pop charge with her eponymous and “Body Talk” albums and songs like “Dancing on My Own,” Robyn has spent the last eight years doing seemingly everything except release a proper new Robyn album. She dropped a remix disc (and toured behind it) and a collaborative EP with her pals in Royksopp (and toured behind that, too), as well as tag-teams with La Bagatelle Magique, the Lonely Island, Todd Rundgren, Mr. Tophat and Metronomy (the latter two are collaborators on “Honey,” along with Kindness’ Adam Bainbridge and her longtime co-writer/producer Klas Ahlund). She also, as has been mentioned in seemingly every recent article about her, endured a wrenching breakup and went through extensive therapy.

All of this is mentioned less for historical than artistic context: “Honey” was hard won, and most of the above is present in the album’s songs, lyrically and/or atmospherically. The album is both elated and tense, blissful and sad. Its meticulous arrangements, pristine production and densely layered vocals imply years of obsessive work, but it rarely gets bogged down in details. It’s perfectionist but not stiff; there’s a spirit of freedom and abandon that overrules any rigidity.