It is always a pleasure to find an artist in a genre, which is able to move the genre forward. Hailing from Philadelphia, Highspire definitely is able to contribute to the catalog of space rock/shoegazer artists that have come before them. Using a variety of sounds and bringing various styles to the table, Highspire is able to make a cohesive and interesting album. They blend shoegaze with 80’s pop styles, lush noises and beautiful soundscapes. Alex White‘s vocals are inviting, and he is able to show his skill in morphing his vocals as different influences come to bear on the song.
The album opens with pops and clicks over atmospheric guitar. “Until the Lights Go Down” is a well done shoegazer-oriented song. Actually, this song is no indication of what comes later on in the album as far as their innovation is concerned. Although this is so, the song is well crafted, and White‘s vocals remind me of a cross between label mate Jeremy Wrenn‘s (Airiel) and Kevin Shield‘s (My Bloody Valentine) vocals. Hagen‘s bass work really throbs behind the lush guitars and keys. A great opener for this disc.
Track 2, “Skies You Climb”, really takes the listener back. Rather than more noisy guitars, this song begins with acoustic guitar, violin, and floating vocals. Bass joins in and eventually distorted pillows of electric guitar. As the song progresses, more layers of guitar and percussion fill the quiet. This song is beautiful and hypnotic, showing that the band is much more that your typical shoegazer band. Lyrically, the song seems very stream of consciousness, yet it is certainly centered around the death of someone dear. This lyrical style permeates the rest of the disc as well. “Fade in a Day” vaguely reminds me of some of the great 80’s bands. The chorus shows their ability to display Highspire‘s great pop sensibilities over spacious guitar. “Portsmouth” was another great surprise on this disc. It has a serious backbeat with a wonderful bass line. Again, this songs shows that White is vocally versatile. His vocals remind me of an ethereal Simon Le Bon. “Portsmouth” is certainly one of the gems on the disc. “Shattered” is probably the most straightforward noise pop song on the disc. Again, White changes up his vocal style to fit the song. The lyrics are poetic and evoke images about a relationship with someone important.
“Sub Par Life, Brilliant Death” is the only instrumental on the disc and they even deliver in this category. This song has percussion and bass heavy with ghost like keys and even some vocal additions way in the background. It is a mid-tempo song that is on the upbeat side despite the name of the song. “No Day Like Today” is a slow tempo song that has great, space-oriented keys. Eventually the song climbs into noisy guitars and fades back into the slow landscapes with White’s ethereal vocals. Then, just when you think the song is over, it fades back into a sort of instrumental reprise.
If you like diversity and innovation, check out Highspire. Honestly, I was expecting a typical shoegazer band and I got more than I bargained for, and with the disc clocking in at over an hour, it is more than worth the money. They are able to take great pop sensibilities and wrap them in a shoegazer stew filled with 80’s influences, noise pop and much, much more.