Our Take: Sir Sly Turn Pain into Beauty on ‘Don’t You Worry, Honey’

Don't You Worry, Honey - Sir Sly

Our Rating

I could dive in, like open water
Tell you about my mom and all about my father
How I once was married to a pastor’s daughter
I guess I could…
I’m not accustomed to opening up
I’ve fallen in love before, but it wasn’t enough
And now I’m ashamed, like it’s sin
Six foot three, curly blond hair,
and a lot of love to give
“Headfirst” by Sir Sly

Emotionally vulnerable and musically rich, Sir Sly’s long-awaited sophomore album Don’t You Worry, Honey has the look and feel of an instant classic. Released June 30, 2017 via Interscope Records, the achingly intimate followup to 2014’s powerful debut You Haunt Me finds the LA trio expanding their musical palette through a daringly diverse, yet surprisingly concise set of songs that stays faithful to, and builds upon Sir Sly’s unique blend of electronic, gospel, and hip-hop influence.

Listen: Don’t You Worry, Honey – Sir Sly


Death cast a dark, ever-present shadow over You Haunt Me, and while death and loss are equally as visible across Don’t You Worry, Honey, it is Sir Sly’s approach to heavy, difficult subject matter that once again makes for such a compelling narrative. Frontman Landon Jacobs’ vulnerability is vivid and tangible as he opens up about his mother’s death and his recent divorce, the two major conflicts that together form much of this record’s foundation. Soulful music and breathtakingly personal lyricism find Sir Sly struggling to deal with, confronting, and attempting to overcome and move beyond these significant life changes; “I’m a lover having a hard time, walking a thin line between the life I want and the one I live,” sings Jacobs on “Fun,” going on to poetically lament, “I’m a dreamer stuck in a nightmare.”

But even in darkness’ deepest depths, Sir Sly strive to find a spark of light. Don’t You Worry, Honey ultimately tells an important story about the individual’s journey through grief and mourning, toward resolution. Just like their debut, Sir Sly’s sophomore effort succeeds at injecting substance and humanity into spellbinding music: Out of pain, the band creates beauty.

Join Atwood Magazine in diving headfirst into Don’t You Worry, Honey through our track-by-track review, and catch Sir Sly on tour this summer (dates below).

:: purchase Don’t You Worry, Honey here ::
Sir Sly © Eliot Lee Hazel

Sir Sly © Eliot Lee Hazel

Don’t You Worry, Honey

Don't You Worry, Honey - Sir Sly

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High

It feels good to be running from the devil
Another breath and I’m up another level
It feels good to be up above the clouds
It feels good for the first time in a long time now

Atwood Magazine previously described album opener “High” as an “electrifying narrative of self-worth, purpose and meaning that highlights Sir Sly’s ability to evoke raw emotions with surreal passion.” Without context, Sir Sly’s lead single sounds like an invigorating celebration of substance use; the fact that both the metaphor and literal translation can hold true is a testament to Jacobs’ superb songwriting talent. “High” acts like a foreword to the oncoming storm, notifying us that Jacobs and crew are on the road to recovery. Things were rough for a long time, but “it feels good for the first time in a long time now.”

In addition to preparing us for the story to come, “High” also bridges the sonic space between records 1 and 2. A torrent of guitar and pulsing bass lay a deep groove while Jacobs rap-sings the vocal line, a clear indication of the band’s direct embrace of hip-hop.

Of course, “High” is only the introduction. While it has proven itself independently strong on radio charts, the song comes to mean so much more once you’ve experienced the full record.


Change

I could change if I really want to
Because I’m lonely
Staring at a photograph
of my one and only

Soulfully bittersweet, “Change” is a willful acknowledgement of wrongdoing and poignant expression of regret. The band’s use of samples enhances an already somber moment, balancing the utter despair flowing from Jacobs’ vocals. His voice is barely above a whisper in the verse, but that’s all we really need in order to understand the gravity of this moment – a moment that is fully revealed in the chorus:

Cause I was just a young,
dumb kid with my thumbs up

Did I run, did I run to the wrong side?
Did I run to the wrong side?
Oh, yeah, I was dumbstruck
Looking at it now,
I can tell that I fucked up

Did I run to the wrong side?

It’s as if, after going through the motions for so long, Jacobs has finally woken up to a history of regrets that he knows will haunt him for some time. All he can do is stumble through a deluge of memories until he finds his way back to the surface.


&Run

Heavy as the setting sun
Oh, I’m counting all the numbers
between zero and one
Happy, but a little lost
Well, I don’t know what I don’t know
So I’ll kick my shoes off and run

“&Run” feels at once emotionally free, but also stifled: Jacobs sings of kicking his shoes off and running, an image that certainly evokes the perception of freedom. Yet his demeanor is so obviously weighed down by the past, that despite his best attempts, he cannot outrun or escape the burden of memory.

You could be another face
that I forget soon as I move along
Everybody makes mistakes;
am I mistaken for the way I carry on?
You could show a little grace,
but maybe things just went a bit too far
We are just who we are;
no time for “what if”s and “what if not”s

We come to learn, quite quickly, that Jacobs is kidding himself. The cruelest irony of all, however, is that he’s well aware of this deception: He’s just trying to get out, by any means possible – and who can blame him? The profound poetry of the chorus’ line, “I’m counting all the numbers between zero and one,” reminds us that he is awake, alert, and conscious to his own missteps. “&Run” is bold and invariably genre-defiant, employing a little bit of everything in such a catchy way that everyone can join Jacobs in his melancholic introspection by the time Sir Sly hit that final chorus.


Altar

I used to worship at your altar
I thought you’d wash away my pain
Thought your name made you a river
After all it’s just a name

The lyrically rich, gospel-heavy “Altar” is the band’s first, whole-hearted plunge into the passing of Jacobs’ mother and Jacobs’ divorce. The singer’s vocals take center stage above a fragile electronic beat as he wrestles with feelings:

But you’re a different kind of person
Not the person that I once knew
Not the girl I fell in love with
Not the god I made you into
You do what you want
Sleep with who you want
I can’t stop you
Even if I try, the whole time, you will lie
Then you give me one more line about doing lines
You say that you’re just living your life
That I should do my time, but I already did my time

Heart and soul collide in the song’s finale as, atop a background of gospel singers chanting glory, Jacobs prides himself on being fine – “I’m alive, I won’t worship at your shrine again,” he asserts, “And no, I do not want to be your friend.” It’s a shaky resolution, but it’s meant to be that way: If you were looking for decisive, conclusive emotions, you picked the wrong record. Sir Sly pride themselves on making music that is important – both to them, and hopefully to others – and “Altar” is a prime example of that methodology at work, leaving us with a pit in the bottom of our chests.


Fun

I’m a dreamer stuck in the real world
It’s not an ideal world
Ashamed I flew out of bed from the things I’ve done
I’m a bleeding heart stuck in a cold world
A harsh and unknown world
Afraid of who I am and what I might become

“Fun” has a surprisingly similar drum pattern to “You Haunt Me.” It also has a surprisingly similar melodic pattern, leading one to believe that the band may have felt things were left unfinished with their debut’s album track. Whether or not these two songs are related, “Fun” offers a particularly engaging reprieve from the surrounding darkness in its attempt to continue a positive, cheerful life.

I don’t wanna wake up, I just wanna fall in love
So let me dream if I want; it’s not gonna hurt no one
I don’t wanna grow up, I just wanna stay this young
See the world if I want; it’s not gonna hurt no one
So let me have my fun

Let me dream if I want,” sings Jacobs, his voice bouncing on a high-spirited melody as he tries to stay smiling. Death and divorce individually require a particularly strong degree of maturity and acceptance; combined, they’re a cocktail strong enough to throw the best of us into shock. The song’s outro brings us back from this momentary reverie, as Jacobs speaks directly to his ghosts:

Let me have my fun
God knows I need it
The past six months, when I fall asleep
Every night, you’re in my dreams
You’re waving goodbye, too far away to touch
I’m a lover fresh out of luck

Let the darkness continue.


Astronaut

Live a little, dropping acid, and I’m flying away
I’m feeling like an astronaut in space
I don’t think that it’ll ever do the damage they say
Feeling like an astronaut in space

Just as we think it might be time to reconcile feelings, Sir Sly refuse confrontation. “Astronaut” is untethered, a beautiful electronic tune that soars on denial’s delicate wings. Jacobs expresses a preference to stay above it all, but “feeling like an astronaut in space” means you’re floating in an ether, feeling nothing.

Is it better to be numb? To answer this, we might harken back to You Haunt Me – which certainly dealt with that theme quite a bit. Though it covers a theme, Don’t You Worry, Honey isn’t meant to be a concept album, and it is prudent to understand each song like one might a flashback in time – each track captures a piece of the pie, but there is no set timeline. Regardless, “Astronaut” maintains an infectious bounce that holds steady before the drop.


2am

Hold on, calm down
This will all be over any minute now
You’re fine, you’re good
I’d shrug you off, but I’d believe you if I could

Darkness ultimately falls, and it drags heavier than anyone could have expected on “2am.” Jacobs’ croons are tasteful and dynamic as he dives into his own head, reeling from the terrors that keep one from succumbing to sleep.

I’m just panicking;
I feel it in my heart now
I’m freaking myself out;
I’m keeping my head down
I’m just panicking;
I’m losing my own sight now
I’m freaking myself out;
I’m keeping my head down

We feel this pain quite vividly; dark synths cut through the airwaves, enveloping our ears in shadowy, ominous sound as Jacobs takes us, thought-by-thought, through a bona fide panic attack. Tension grows slowly, intensifying as Sir Sly draw it out, refusing to build to a release and instead keeping listeners in their own tense state.

It’s 2 AM and I’m surrounded, but I feel alone
It’s 2 AM; I need to go outside, have a smoke

Trippin’

What song is this?
I’m grooving on the floor to catch your eye

We’re talking now,
’bout God and politics and computer sites

You say you got a boyfriend;
he’s probably more stable than me,
but let’s play pretend
I really wanna know you,
like now, I really wanna know you

I’m hooked

Another profound blend of hip-hop and ‘electronic indie-pop’, “Trippin'” hooks us through a compelling falsetto and the timeless story of misplaced romance. A tale as old as time plays out as Jacobs knowingly engages when he ought to disengage; thirst outweighs control and results in a toxic mix. The closest thing to a traditional “love song” on Don’t You Worry, Honey turns out to be more of a metaphor, than a direct indulgence as the band slip tenderly toward their album’s end.


Headfirst

Maybe I’m not, maybe I am ready to love again
There’s one way to find, that is to dive in headfirst
I think that I could try
Start on you and I
Maybe I could dive in headfirst

Hesitation, uncertainty and sadness fill Jacobs’ psyche as he struggles to move on, again questioning his readiness to get back into the real world. Has he picked up the pieces? Can he really move on, or will he end up back on the floor, or worse – in the clouds? How can he know when the time is right; how can he properly prepare himself? He has nothing and no one to fall back on; his experiences thus far have been wrought with complications, thus giving him little hope to believe himself mentally stable enough to return to the life as it was once known.

There is no medicine to grief. It will flow like a river, engulfing you in waves of strife until you drown from within. Thus, Jacobs finally opens the floodgates: Here, we are told the heartwrenching story that has been dragging his entire being, wearing and tearing at his soul these past few years.

I could dive in like open water
Tell you ’bout my mom and all about my father
And how I once was married to a pastor’s daughter
I guess I could
I’m not accustomed to opening up
I’ve fallen in love before, but it wasn’t enough
And now I’m ashamed like it’s sin
6’3″, curly blonde hair and a lot of love to give
And now I’m wondering
If being alone to being afraid to being alone
Makes it worth it to jump again
Will I just go numb again?
And do something dumb again?
Like cheat on my best friend?
A familiar, anxious spiral
I could write these words a thousand times and recite them like my Holy Bible
Maybe falling in love is vital
And if I don’t try now, I won’t be able to when I’d like to

Lyrically brilliant, “Headfirst” is a shaky-footed first step in the right direction – not to mention a stirring portrait of harrowingly personal detail. Hayden Coplen’s steady, cautious drumming holds an otherwise emotionally and physically unstable creature together, and somehow, by the end of things, we start to see a glimmer of light:

Could call you up and talk on the phone
Hold your hand and travel the world
Read new books and write our own
We’d make love, create new blood, become old folks together
Dive in headfirst

It’s not much, but it’s a start – and it’s beautiful.


Oh Mama

In San Francisco and the world is ending
Out the car, I see a load of family
Don’t have a clue what I’m allowed to say
But you’re not saying anything
Cause the dead don’t speak in dreams
But you don’t seem dead to me

Sir Sly conclude their sophomore album with a heartbreaking tribute to Landon Jacobs’ mother. Singing directly to her, Jacobs fills the airwaves with sadness. He misses her dearly, and he tells her that, recalling the funeral and his own blockage of emotions.

Could you stay a moment?
Cause I can’t reach you
any other way and I’ve been lonely

Something beautiful starts to happen in the chorus. “One day I’m going to sing with you again, oh mama,” Jacobs passionately cries out to the heavens, a sleek and winding melody lending the surrounding soundscape a particularly soulful atmosphere. This is his story’s swan song, the ending it’s been searching for since its start. A glimmer of resolve appears from within.

Startlingly, this is not a one-way conversation. The song’s breakdown features an appearance from Jacobs’ mother by way of voicemail; she sounds bright and chipper as she returns a missed call, checking in to tell her son she misses him, hoping all is well and assuring him that she’s fine. The inclusion of such a personal memento only deepens Don’t You Worry, Honey‘s personal significance, highlighting as well the permanence of death’s disconnect.

Yet “Oh Mama” is not tense, like some of the other songs on this record. Rather, it feels free; amidst the backdrop of choral singers, the song’s passionate melody soars. Jacobs bids a temporary and heartfelt farewell to his mother, promising himself and her that they will be reunited soon enough. Though the weight on his shoulders hasn’t lifted, we feel a shift in the singer’s tone: His grief is transforming into something more substantive.

The last three years, I lost my holy trinity
I lost you, lost my river, and my old belief
I spent so much time being worried
and afraid of how things might end
But oh, mama, one day I’m gonna sing
I’m gonna sing with you again

A hauntingly sweet, half-whispered final verse brings “Oh Mama” and Sir Sly’s second album to a breathtaking close. The veil of darkness finally feels like it’s been lifted, and a little light is beginning to shine through. Such is the magic of music, that we might feel solace and relief from our trials and tribulations. A fitting end to an often impregnably dark album, “Oh Mama” may not be the most reassuring message, but it is the message Sir Sly were searching for – the one that could offer closure to one of the most trying times in a young artist’s life. Finally, we can understand the greater meaning in album opener “High”: It feels good for the first time in a long time now.

Hayden Coplen, Jason Suwito, and Landon Jacobs have done it again: Three long years after their debut album, Don’t You Worry, Honey is a fitting follow-up full of human emotion, moving music, and innumerable life lessons.

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:: purchase Don’t You Worry, Honey here ::

Don't You Worry, Honey - Sir Sly

— — — —

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Sir Sly's Raw 'High' Hits Hard and Feels Good

by Mitch Mosk

:: Sir Sly 2017 Tour Dates ::

6/29 | Los Angeles, CA – The El Rey
7/8 | Atlanta, GA – Vinyl
7/9 | Charlotte, NC – Visualite Theatre
7/11 | New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
7/12 | Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
7/15 | Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry
7/16 | Pittsburg, PA – The Club @ Stage AE
7/17 | Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar
7/19 | Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
7/20 | Milwaukee, WI – The Rave Bar
7/21 | Indianapolis, IN – The Hi-Fi
7/22 | St. Louis, MO – Blueberry Hill
7/23 | Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
7/25 | Colorado Springs, CO – The Black Sheep
7/26 | Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
7/29 | Sacramento, CA – Goldfield Trading Post
7/30 | Fresno, CA – Strummer’s
tix & more info @ sir-sly.com

The Breakdown

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York’s many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch’s words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing.
Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com