It is certainly fitting that I first took the time to listen to Ryan Schaefer and Nadja Korinth's – or Palms' – debut when the cold snap of winter was well and truly upon us, with snow falling in the capital. This LP is particularly cold, and, in parts, often bitingly bleak; it simply wouldn't be the same album in the middle of July.
The harshness and emotional effect of the language on show is something which is stark when listening to It's Midnight In Honolulu. Nadja Korinth, singing the vast majority of lines here, switches between the harsh, clinical German tongue and its not too but slightly more languid cousin, English. The German parts, of course, are reserved for the darkest, sparsest and most downbeat moments of It's Midnight; you don't need to listen to much to realise this, as 'Der Koenig''s thudding kick-drum is joined by Korinth's distant wails, telling tales of enchantment – in English and German. It's Nico tuned up a tone or two as "Schneeweißes herz" (Snow White heart) rings out and talk of dark nights, palaces and forests are placed over very little other than above an unwavering bassline and kick-drum acting in unison.
There are moments, however, which start to push away from the desolate and austere. 'Das Lowenfell' is the most melodious here and even borders on the sanguine, albeit lamentfully, as Korinth's Anglo-German words come and go as serenely as the waves she sings about. 'Monte Alban' lurches toward the obvious German musical influences as a sinister multi-layering of Korinth's reverb-laden shrieks atop plodding a single-line synth; it embodies It's Midnight as a mostly dark affair but a frail electronic backbone.
There are also moments which are definitely in the more conventional rock mold, and these moments certainly aren't the most sparkling; in fact, they are by far the least memorable and least successful. 'Hang Your Head' and 'Leather Daddies' gently and innocuously meander, doing nothing noteworthy. 'Agnieszka' moves back towards the minimalism espoused earlier, whilst 'Boundary Waters' is perhaps the middle ground between the minimalist and more fulsome electronica that Palms should strive for.
The bleakness throughout It's Midnight In Honolulu can leave a feeling of cold, harsh emptiness. Optimism and hope is something you're unlikely to find in abundance when listening to large chunks of Palms' debut. Had they refined this a little, cutting the less experimental moments, Palms' debut LP would shift from simply good to great.
6Luke Slater's Score