Drugdealer’s ‘Raw Honey’ is vibrant, if somewhat unimaginative

The album features rich instrumentals and catchy songwriting, but it’s far too obvious influences result in a somewhat derivative album.

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On its latest album “Raw Honey,” Drugdealer picks from a basket of nostalgic influences and creates a record with vibrant instrumentation and amusing melodies. Unfortunately, Drugdealer also eschews modern pop ideals for an imitative ‘60s sound that, while expertly crafted, feels a bit too familiar to fully enjoy.

Drugdealer is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based musician Michael Collins. His works have always had a certain vintage ambience to them. For instance, Drugdealer’s debut album, “The End of Comedy,” was packed full of ‘60s and ‘70s era pop tunes with a modern lo-fi twist. In that sense, “Raw Honey” feels like a natural continuation of the ideas expressed on Drugdealer’s debut. Ditching the more modern pop concepts and lo-fi production featured on “The End of Comedy,” “Raw Honey” offers a near period-perfect glimpse of ‘60s pop tunes.

While influences certainly aren’t a bad thing (especially when those influences are artists like Brian Wilson and David Bowie), “Raw Honey” shoves its influences in your face and begs you to compare. The album sometimes avoids inspiration and instead shoots for pure imitation, resulting in unoriginal vintage pop replicas. The album’s fourth track “Lost In My Dream,” for example, sounds like a Beach Boys B-side with its twee vocal melodies and lavish — although somewhat uninteresting — instrumentation. “London Nightmare,” the album’s penultimate track, sounds like an unexciting attempt to craft something straight out of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust days.

“Raw Honey” is at its best when it pays respect to the past while also carving out its own unique sound. The album’s second song, “Honey,” is a carefree country-rock jam with gorgeous guest vocals from Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering. While “Honey” alludes to classic bands like Fleetwood Mac, the twangy guitar melodies and beautiful outro make it distinct from its influences. The lead single “Fools” is a groovy, sax-filled tune that lends itself well to warm summer days with its soaring vocals and upbeat tempo.

While “Raw Honey” can be a bit ham-fisted in taking from the influences that inspired it, ultimately, Collins and his band have created a gratifying, fun-loving record. And really, what more could you ask from a band called Drugdealer?

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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