There are four different types of summer albums: the one for the beach, the one for the party, the one for falling in love, and the one for breaking up. Honeyfitz–Western Massachusetts’ oddball sweetheart–found a way to tick all four boxes at once with his debut album, I Don’t Need Tennis Lessons, I Need A Therapist.
22-year-old Honeyfitz considers ‘Tennis Lessons’ his debut, but his previous projects left a palpable impact on the Massachusetts DIY scene, and provided a soundtrack for countless New England workdays and romances. While his scope is local, his feelings are global, and a character this unique is hard not to love.
Tennis Lessons radiates a childlike longing for home, warmth, and familiarity. But Honeyfitz was at home when he wrote this album. He was attending UMass Amherst – his sole year of college – but still felt unsettled in his own hometown. He recalls, "I spent the year very conscious of the disconnect between me and all of the other freshmen. All these people were making a new home for themselves, but home for me has always been a slow and unconscious evolution."
For Tennis Lessons, Honeyfitz taps Massachusetts DIY mainstays Emily Carter from Oroboro for synths and vocals, Nathan Galloway from Snowhaus for guitar, Andrew Ring from Snowhaus for drumming, and Riley Feeney of Kin for bass. Judge Russell of Big Mood also contributed guitar lines, as well as Honeyfitz himself, who plays on every song except “Seventeen.” Eli Heath of Ohio fusion outfit Frisson lent basslines and organ programming. Gabe Gill, Honeyfitz’s other half in Deadmall, lends vocals on “Tee Shirt,” “Fourteen Hundred,” and “Wake Up.”
Instead of staying surface-level (like many other indie-pop records) and plainly stating that he needs a therapist, (and doesn’t think tennis lessons would help the matter), Honeyfitz confesses his dampest insecurities and innermost devotions, in present tense, as if he’s opening up to his lover in couple’s therapy, and we’re sitting in on the session.
“Leaning In” is definitely the song for the beach. If prime Death Cab For Cutie remixed Neil Young’s sandy, unreleased gem “Everybody’s Alone,” and added a tinge of surf-rock, I imagine it would sound something like this. Through Honeyfitz’s rusted vocal glistens vignettes of rural nostalgia. In the opening verses, he sets the scene: “Remember donuts and cornfields junior year?”
He saves the wailing, enraptured chorus for (what seems like) last. He cries, “I just need someone to take care of me, take care of me.” A classic guitar bridge follows, then, over stubby strums, Honeyfitz reappears. Without any effects, and a tumbling, jowly delivery, he says, “I wanted something to hold on to with both my hands / I wanted someone to lean back when I was leaning in.”
Along with thematic through-lines of fast love, slow days, home, and identity, Honeyfitz weaves a sturdy motif together with fraternal interludes “At The Same Time Pt. 1” and “4AM/Same Time Pt. 2.” The two have matching lead melodies (but the latter has an atmospheric synth pad underneath), identical choruses, and very similar lyrics – but by the time we reach the second interlude, a lot has changed.
Between the transitions lie peak tracks “Wake Up,” “Hayden,” “Concrete,” and “Everyone Else.” “Wake Up” is a gut-spilling, teary-eyed ballad and a perfect summer soundtrack for crying in your car. “Hayden” is a sticky diary entry with woodblock accents that trace the melody as Honeyfitz unfolds the perfect song to look out the window to: “I’ll dream happy in the backseat letting someone else decide.”
“Concrete” – Tennis Lessons’ sole single – evokes the image playing in wet grass and eating blackberries under string lights. It’s a pure, dancey bop perfect for a summer kickback. “Everyone Else,” the last song of the second act, represents the aftermath of conflicts and escapades illustrated in tracks prior. It depicts the cold, dismal realization that your love has run out.
Soon after “Everyone Else,” Honeyfitz delivers “Tell One On Yourself” – a bright-eyed hymn, lined with church organs and country charm. On it, he voices the tender process of realizing you will actually survive without your lover through self-reflection, art, implemented routine, and more significantly, optimism.
Naturally, after seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, you chase it, and bask in it when you arrive. I Don’t Need Tennis Lessons, I Need A Therapist’s final track, “Seventeen,” illustrates the final strides on the path to becoming your normal self again. Amidst programmed drum loops, tepid organ chords, and digital arpeggios, Honeyfitz’s bleedingly raw voice magically propels the song into natural beauty – an impossible feat for most, but a cakewalk for Honeyfitz.
Listen to this summer’s most versatile, addictive, and cathartic indie-pop album below.