At this time last year, Brooklyn’s High Places were virtually unknown—an obscure duo with a handful of singles and compilations tracks to boast and show off their scruffy, scrappy lo-fi sample-pop sound. Just a few months later, the introduction of their compilation 03/07-09/07, a primer of sorts, made them an interesting new find, much buzzed about through these electronic tubes, and soon found them scooped up by Chicago’s Thrill Jockey Records. Now, just half a year later, they’ve returned with their second contribution to the exclusive list of the year’s best albums.
High Places already made a considerable impact on the strength of 03/07-09/07, a fuzzy and cuddly album comprising campfire singalongs with exotica and tropicalia backdrops. While some would draw comparisons to the enthusiastic twee of Beat Happening on one end of the spectrum, and others undoubtedly found common ground between the duo and the psychedelic ascendancy of Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, I say you’re both right. Yet while that compilation had an unpolished, playful charm about it, on the group’s first proper full-length, High Places has a bit more sheen, a broader palette, and ultimately a greater sophistication behind their twinkling and gorgeous melodic quilt.
Let’s make no mistake: High Places are every bit as playful as they suggested on early singles. Yet with better resources with which to optimize their sound, High Places sound more sophisticated, or to use a cliché political term, ready for prime time. Mary Pearson’s voice ultimately retains its childlike quality as she gorgeously chants on opening track “The Storm,” while collaborator Rob Barber lays down an exotic and buoyant groundwork of stunning sonic treats. “The Tree With the Lights In It” has more tropical sonic embellishments, with Pearson’s coo serving as both harmonic device and the spindly thread that guides the course of the song. “Vision’s The First…” has a kind of mysterious minimalism that veers into even more curious breakdowns, while “Gold Coin” is a bit more straightforward, bouncing up and down with a sing-song kind of innocent glee. And “Golden” and “Field Guide,” quite simply, are stunning.
On their self-titled set, High Places keeps it brief, but in that short 30 minutes, the duo shows off a considerable spread of talent and creativity. While their introductory comp 03/07-09/07 may have been the record that unleashed High Places’ raw talent, this album finds them more polished, more refined, and ultimately an even more impressive creative force than one could have imagined.
El Guincho – Alegranza!
Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Atlas Sound – Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.