PACKS' 'Melt the Honey' Keeps Things Raw

BY Sophie NoelPublished Jan 16, 2024

In March 2022, the same month that she released Crispy Crunchy Nothing, her sophomore LP as PACKS, Madeline Link and her band headed into the studio to begin work on its follow-up. Melt the Honey is the product of 11 days spent in Veracruz, Mexico "enjoying the weather and self-recording with minimal equipment." The album has a scrappy tangibility to it, an approachable and endearing listen. Hazy slacker rock with catchy melodies and psych-y breakdowns, Melt the Honey is a warm, raw album that invites reflection without judgement. 

PACKS began as Link's solo project, eventually growing to include Dexter Nash (guitar) Noah O'Neil (bass) and Shane Hooper (drums) with their first release, 2021's Take the Cake. The fluidity and mobility of ideas between the group is audible on Melt the Honey, a synergy intentionally cultivated through the recording process. They tracked these 11 songs at Casa pulpo, a house with fluid architectural design that was made for creativity. In this house with "no straight lines," each member of the band had space to bring their personal creative voice to the project. "My bandmates are like my brothers," Link says. "For me, the whole point of being a band is to have fun making music. I don't like a studio environment where you're under a time constraint or financial constraint and no one is enjoying themselves." 

In one of the most dynamic songs on the album, "Pearly Whites," Link leans into a drawling, gravelly vocal fry and holds harsh sibilance while guitars distort and decay around her. "Pearly Whites" is followed by counterpoint "HCFS," which opens with a note sung well outside of Link's range. "No, I don't know if that's going to work," she says, laughing, before immediately being swept onto a steady locomotive of an indie rock groove. The song moves at pace into conversations around risk, instant gratification and why people do things that are bad for them. Tambourine accompanies throughout, outlining the song with a sickly sweet predictability — "High fructose corn syrup," she sings, evoking that fizzy, text-from-a-crush rush of adrenaline.

Link's open curiosity about the human experience is peppered throughout PACKS' discography. "Paige Machine" is another such song, inspired by a story about Mark Twain and the risk of tinkering with something to the point of destruction. The song opens with a thunder crack, implying an approaching storm. The lyrics are frank, as though poking around a wound to see what hurts: "It'll only work once now / 'Cuz you took it apart / And in this new configuration / Fucked up, now you gotta restart."

It's a solid explanation for the entire PACKS enterprise — play the songs and let them be, trusting instinct and feeling over polish. Melt the Honey is full of little surprises if you're open to them. Some moments move as though through its titular ooze, while others take on the lucidity of a sugar high. Candid spoken word moments and field recordings situate the music in a humid and vital place, as though you're joining the band in the rainforest of Veracruz. PACKS is developing their voice more with every album, and Link is establishing herself as a songwriter with a clear and unvarnished sense of self, unafraid to take risks without losing what's at her music's core. 
(Fire Talk)

Tour Dates

Latest Coverage