Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get This Record: North Highlands

As someone who writes a music blog I am solicited by lots of public relations people to listen to the bands they represent. Lots of times I am not even marginally interested, sometimes I get to hear music from bands I already love before the records are released and sometimes I am sent unsolicited material that completely blows me away. Late last week I was sent a link to the Bandcamp page for a band, I had never heard of, called North HIghlands. Their record, Wild One came out last Tuesday and the full album is streaming on the, aforementioned, Bandcamp page. Well, I listened to the whole thing on Saturday, then I went back to the first song and listened to the whole thing again. It's exactly what I look for in indie-rock, it's cleverly written pop music, it's jangly, it's fun but it's not corny. It sounds instantly familiar but you can't quite put your finger on why. I rarely write album reviews on this site and I'm not even sure this counts as one but I just want to do my part to get the word out there about North Highlands. So, if you like indie-pop, female vocals, clever songwriting and lush production values then you need to GET THIS RECORD.

I'm not the first blogger to post about North Highlands but I certainly won't be the last either. I expect that we'll have a chance to see this Brooklyn band in Austin in the near future. Although, they have nothing scheduled here at the moment, with a new record to promote and some cold, wintry months on their way in up in New York it only seems logical that bands would start heading our way to showcase their music. Otherwise, we can count on seeing them at SXSW 2012.

Since North Highlands are just recently on my radar I'm not going to try to paraphrase the information I know about them, instead I'm going to do something I rarely ever do, which is simply to copy and past the info from the initial e-mail I received. I know it's a cop-out but in this instance, it's the most efficient way to get the information from me to you. So, here's all you need to know about North Highlands, biographically:

North Highlands-the place, not the band-is, as Malvini puts it, "a gnarly suburb trapped in time. It sounds like a beautiful name but it's not a beautiful place." Located just outside of Sacramento, North Highlands once housed a military base, and also Brenda, who relocated to New York City as quickly as the town would let her out. She went to NYU, where the majority of North Highlands-we're talking about the band now-also went, all of them "graduating or not graduating," as they put it, a couple of years ago. Brenda was writing songs, but keeping them secret, until a friend booked her a show and said, "Do it." Unable to resist, Brenda enlisted her friends to fill out the bill. Mike Barron helped out on guitar, Jasper Berg on percussion, Daniel Stewart on guitar, violin, and mandolin and Andy Kasperbauer on bass.

(Photo Credit: Adam Wissing)

The result of the show was the band, and later, the record. Brenda rewrote the lyrics to the songs right before recording them, which might contribute to their casual, communal, spontaneous feel. Her voice is like a cross between Jolie Holland's gravelly birdsong and something softer-she sings like a woman who is weary but not too much so yet. She's still audibly young. 'Benefits,' the band's first single, is about that weariness. Brenda puts it simply, "it's when you work hard your whole life and then it isn't enough." It's not a sad song, though, not exactly. "You realize that," and you can hear her smiling when she says it, "and you just say fuck it and go dancing." 'Benefits' also comes with a counterpoint. 'Bruce' is also about the sad realization that everything just sucks sometimes, and about how sometimes you can't go dancing, you just have to give it up, say fuck it, and hide in a hole for awhile.