Bands to Watch #308: High Highs

By on Friday, 14th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

In Stuart Maconie’s book “Cider with Roadies”, he explained how he once described ’70s-’80s Perth band The Triffids, after seeing them live, as makers of “huge music written under huge skies for long trips through empty deserts”. While on a long roadtrip on my birthday visit to Australia 2 years ago this month, I commented to a blogger friend of mine with a similar idea, that there must be something very special as to why much of the music made by so many Aussie and Kiwi artists made me feel so great, and in a way I couldn’t easily put into words. Timeless? Yes. Beautiful? Yes.

While dreamy indie pop duo High Highs no longer live in Sydney, having relocated to Brooklyn for their shot at professional success, their sound still seems to me to still feel very Aussie-influenced. Which in my books is a very good thing. Following on from the huge global success of The Naked and Famous but following their own rules and style, Jack Milas and Oli Chang look poised to be the next big thing from Down Under. They already have a self-titled EP and a debut album (2013’s ‘Open Season’) under their belts, but the next stage of their career is just beginning.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydQLEGt8BDQ[/youtube]

At the start of October, the duo released their latest EP ‘Ocean to City’, comprised of three amazing tracks. The timing of this release couldn’t be beat; soon we’ll all be plunged into the bleak, dark winter, and yet ‘Ocean to City’ is giving us a relaxed respite from all of that. The title track’s video, which premiered on Billboard last week, shows Milas and Chang driving around in an open-top convertible in the carefree land of California, while they pass surfers, beaches and palm trees, all under a seemingly never-ending blue sky. (Funny, the time I visited Sydney, I thought, “hmm, this is like London. Except it’s sunny and clean…”) Milas’ dreamy vocals telling of the yearning of a lover counterbalance the upbeat driving rhythm of the track so it’s neither too sweet or too melancholic. It’s the natural choice for a single, guaranteed to get toes tapping and new fans singing along to its chirpy yet loving message.

‘Glamorous Party’ is pensive, brooding. Chang’s keyboard chords match the drama of Milas’ voice, which oozes from falsetto and not, adding shades of light and dark to the song. But it’s ‘Catch the Wind’ that holds my attention the longest. It’s a study of relationships, and it’s a study of loneliness. It’s a modern pop retelling of that classic chestnut, “if you love somebody, set her free. If she comes back, she’s yours, If she doesn’t, she never was…”

Milas sings in the chorus, “hey, you’re not alone / go break the mold / go where you are free” and echoing oohs swirl around you, a product of High Highs’ ambient pop palette. True beauty. We’ll have to wait and see if this duo will join the illustrious ranks of legendary bands from their homeland. But based on the strength of this latest EP, a packed residency at Pianos in New York City and a past sold out show at London Old Queen’s Head, I think they have an incredibly good shot at making it.

High Highs’ ‘Ocean to City’ EP is available now from their Bandcamp at a price you name.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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