By Connor Schwanke
Originally published on February 22, 2016.
Artist: High Highs
Label: Never Leave Never Sleep
Release Date: February 5, 2016
When High Highs floated onto the scene in 2011 with their self-titled debut EP, their lush, warm sound became a high demand for the media world. Their single, “Open Season” showed up in the likes of Amazon Kindle and Pacífico Beer commercials, and the emotionally driving song for the heartbreak climax in Pitch Perfect. Will.i.am even dialed up a sample from “Flowers Bloom” to use in his own song, “Good Morning.” Taking their time with the ambition of releasing a full-length album, High Highs released Cascades on February 5, four and a half years later. From just one listen to the album, it’s evident that High Highs found their identity through the years and capitalized on it.
With the slow-popping “Boxing” as the first track, High Highs establish their distinct, newly developed, prodigious dream pop brand. It then picks up with their single, “Cascades,” and the remaining songs continue to set new tones from then on. Finally, Cascades closes on “Fastnet,” where the duo experiments with a slow four-to-the-floor beat and muted guitars that succeeds perfectly while brushing the edges of chillwave. The songwriting prowess that earned Jack Milas and Oli Chang commercial attention is still evident but now the songs are wrapped in a blanket of synth pads and punching production that lift the songs to a new level of euphoria. In an interview with Music Feeds, Chang, the multi-instrumentalist, explains, “I think the warmth just happens naturally by cradling the voice.” Then, when Milas, the vocalist, mentions the large amount of time Chang uses putting synths together, Chang adds, “It’s good to use analog sounds, I think that helps a lot.”
With all the talk of warmth, High Highs still prevent the album from getting washed over. Every song still glimmers brightly, just without any glare. Every song has a way of making you bounce to it, just without any strain. The melodies are catchy and they still maintain authenticity. Cascades already has musical statements that make the album a huge contender in the industry but High Highs didn’t stop there. They let each song build until they blossom to their full potential. The dynamics calm you down and build you up, bringing the euphoria they serve to full effect. It’s not only a feat in songwriting, but a feat in production so get ready for Cascades to make its way towards you, whether it be in record stores, on music blogs, or new Hollywood blockbusters.