Recording information: Black Box; Ice Staircase; Letterly St; The Dauphinium.
By the time his band Honey Radar released their 2016 album, Blank Cartoon, for What's Your Rupture?, Jason Henn had been making bedroom recordings for over a decade, experimenting with lo-fi noise and cranking out short, snappy pop songs so noisily hooky they'd make Robert Pollard put down his beer and take notice. All those years of recording weren't necessarily leading to Blank Cartoon, but this album is something of a coming-out party for Henn and his band. Ranging from short bursts of overloaded pop so sticky you need a toothbrush to longer, more expansive tracks that let guitar riffs and hypnotic rhythms play out, the album is a balanced display of weirdo indie the likes of which hasn't been heard since Bee Thousand or Slanted and Enchanted. Not that Henn is simply aping Guided by Voices or Pavement; he takes the best parts of their respective templates and adds plenty of idiosyncratic elements. There are tracks that rumble like a Rolling Stones bootleg from the mid-'70s ("Caterpillar," the super-catchy "Fort Wayne Mermaids"), some that have rambunctious garage rock underpinnings ("Postcard Target"), a few that grind gently like a Flying Nun band ("Pan Music"), the occasional noise experiment that provides some contrast to all the pristine pop ("Beethoven DUI"), and lots of tunes that strike quickly and then fade away rather than overplaying their hand ("Crybaby Jail," "Scorpions Bought Me Breakfast"). Henn and his bandmates use just the right amount of tinny noise and clattering sound, never enough to bury the songs but always enough to keep them sounding lovably scruffy and innocent. Through it all, Henn's crack hand at melodies keeps listeners on the edges of their chairs waiting for the next one to come along. It's the kind of record that inspires repeated listens, even at 18 tracks long. There's never a moment of boredom or frustration, just perfectly rendered lo-fi indie pop. File Blank Cartoon next to the best GBV, Pavement, Eric's Trip, or early Clean albums; it won't sound out of place at all. ~ Tim Sendra