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High Places - 03.07 - 09.07

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Artist: High Places

Album: 03.07 - 09.07

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Jul. 28, 2008


High Places - "Head Spins (Extended Version)" (03.07 - 09.07)


Brooklyn vox-and-keyboard...type...stuff duo High Places’ singles comp 03/07 -09/07 might prove the best record of the summer. It's not the kind to blast from a car stereo, but the sort that perfectly complements an afternoon lazing at the beach or sunbathing on the roof. They sing about sand and oceans; they build songs from burbling sounds, steel drum-like instrumental accompaniment, and percussion that sounds like clinking seashells.

That’s not all that imbues High Places’ songs with the gentle, wistful mood of a late summer day, though. Rob Barber’s beats are consistently toe-tapping, if not persuasively danceable. They’ll trail off into, or fade in from, washes of Casio noise. Mary Pearson’s vocals function similarly, modulating in volume, her melodies disappearing into the end of a song or manifesting somewhere from within the beats. Would it be pushing a metaphor too hard to call this texturing “tidal?”

Cynical listeners might shudder and beat a retreat to the nearest basement. Indeed, High Places risk cutesiness: they’re from Brooklyn, they play (well, until recent Pitchfork Fest-scale appearances) D.I.Y. shows to which they haul their own P.A., Mary Pearson has a pretty little voice and good elocution, and their lyrical content extends oh-so-whimsically to "Martians" and "cats." Unlike some of their sweetie-pie, willfully experimental peers, though, High Places’ songs hold together as songs rather than mere fragments. The layers that comprise each song - beats, vocals, keyboards, whatever household utensil noises they sample - mesh together to form a whole, rather than seeming piecemeal. Pearson's vocals work strikingly well; one can hardly think of them as "lead vocals," as they're integrated thoroughly into the mix, no more or less prominent than beats or instrumentation. Although they use a wide variety of instruments and samples, nothing ever sticks out as illogical. High Places don't try too hard to summon a certain influence, or to force a glockenspiel into a song in which a glockenspiel wouldn’t make sense.

High Places’ songs sound so consistent on this collection, in fact, that one hopes they’ll shake things up a little bit on their impending debut album. For a neophyte, it’s hard to imagine this as a "singles" compilation. Each song seems a logical move from the song that preceded it, and no track stands out particularly from the rest. As a distinctive sound, though, as a warm, pulsing vibe, they succeed.

By Talya Cooper

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