Album Review: High Hazels – In the Half Light EP

By on Thursday, 3rd April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Sheffield band High Hazels will be releasing their debut EP on Monday. But before I dive headlong into a review of the songs themselves, I wanted to take a moment to discuss its wonderful title first. ‘In the Half Light’ is, putting it mildly, incredibly evocative. In the wilds of my imagination, my mind conjures up scenes of stirring just as the sun peeks its head over the horizon, as the beauty of dawn breaking is revealed. In the context of the songs on this EP, however, my mind goes one step further, seeing a lonesome male figure awoken by the memory of someone dear but lost to him, as the noted half light turns into day and the wistfulness -and sadness – remains.

‘In the Half Light’ may be only a small collection of a paltry four songs, but it’s an incredibly strong set of four songs. The EP begins with ‘French Rue’, a tune I fell in love with researching this Bands to Watch feature on the group back in the summer of 2013. If you read other media outlets’ impression of the band, the word “psychedelic” is bandied about. But are High Hazels’ guitars psychedelic? Not from my vantage point, and not in the trippy, multi-coloured kaleidoscope way, but perhaps more so in a nostalgic, echoey, at times drone-y fashion.

And to be perfectly frank, I wouldn’t want to be under the influence of anything while listening to High Hazels. (Just to prove to you how un-rock ‘n’ roll I am, I’m reviewing this sat with my laptop as my washing machine is chugging away with my laundry in the next room.) There’s something to be said when you’re enjoying a song with vocals clear as a bell, emotional guitars and understated drumming that holds everything together like the final piece of a puzzle. In a less talented group’s hands, this EP could have gone horribly wrong. But in hands of this band, it’s perfection, and High Hazels have set the bar high for their future.

‘French Rue’ evokes true heartbreak with the backdrop of a sympathetic setting sun; previously revealed, beautiful yet incredibly catchy ‘Summer Rain’ (my review from last month here; promo video here) moves the story into the bedroom, where dreams of a former lover and more carefree days under the same sun haunts its protagonist to the core. Though it’s not as strong as these two, frontman James Leesley’s vocals are nimble across the melody in ‘Loose Stitches’ are admirable, as the track weaves a nighttime tale of fading light, togetherness, dreams and desire.

But I bring your attention to track 2 of the EP. We may be in the throes of the start of spring, but the tastefully plucked notes of ‘Winter Song’ brings back memories of colder days, of “ghostly roads”, icy ground and the loneliness you feel in that aforementioned half light: half awake, half asleep, in a hazy dream. I reckon that was the point of this whole EP: ‘In the Half Light’ was made to make you feel something, and something deep. With that goal in mind, High Hazels have succeeded.

8/10

‘In the Half Light’, the debut EP by High Hazels for their label Heist or Hit Records, will be released next Monday, the 7th of April. The band will be playing an EP launch party at home at the Sheffield Queens Social Club next Friday, the 11th of April. The following week, they head out on tour with their city brethren the Crookes on a 2-and-a-half week tour of the UK; all the dates are listed here.

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One Response

[…] not set in winter – granted, considering their latest EP ‘In the Half Light’ (reviewed by me here) was only released earlier this month, they would have had to film it ages ago to fit the season […]

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