The Long Beach band Highlands know exactly where they are coming from and, despite their long-haired, southern rock appearance,they make no bones about their enthusiastic love of shoegaze. On first listen it's as easy to think of more obscure practitioners like Bethany Curve as it is the heavy hitters in the field. If they mention the Verve in their press release, it's not because they're giving the world a “Bittersweet Symphony” redux. The opening guitar line on the previously featured “Sunshine” sounds more like the Verve's debut album A Storm in Heaven, had it been a bit more unhinged and tripped out.
Still, the band's debut Singularity still plows down a familiar pathway. The careening buzzsaw of the guitars on the opening “Railroad,” followed by a shift towards steadier, feedback shimmer and serene harmony singing, definitely confirms their classic shoe gaze starting point. But the brawling drums, reminiscent of Loz Colbert of Ride's hard-pounding performances shows that their sound is not simply inspired by calm reverence.
“Waking Up” twists back a bit towards earlier, first-generation psychedelic zone-outs but then steps up further towards its end, a subtle variety they use elsewhere to change up the arrangements as many of their songs progress. Even seemingly steady rhythms can suddenly mutate, as the stuttering shift towards the end of “Nightmares” shows. This all helps because as the album continues, the atmosphere and impact of all the songs become a little more monochromatic. We'd be excited to see where the band might take their sound on the next album, but for now it's enough that Highlands can do a song called “Evil” which still sounds wonderfully blissed-out, even at high volume.
Singularity will be released on June 26th.