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EP REVIEW: High Violets -"Cinema"   

By: Jim Becker

 

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Artist: The High Violets
Album: Cinema

Label: Comet Rock
Website:
www.thehighviolets.com
Genre: Alternative, Deampop

Sounds Like: Jesus and Mary Chain, Lush
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 6/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: The Orchard, Goodnight Goodbye, The Believer
Strengths: Musicianship, Production quality                            

Weakness: Repetitive sound, vocal mixing

CD REVIEW:

This is The High Violets’ third full-length album. It’s a short one, with 9 tracks coming in around 35 minutes. They have a great Internet presence, including various social media sites and all their material is available on iTunes.

Cinema is a strong release from this Portland, OR based band. They kick things off with “Goodnight Goodbye,” a very catchy number that gets you into the mood of what’s coming in the rest of the album. Though the album it has its ups and downs, there’s not a bad song in the bunch. The production is top-notch and the band is very tight. The arrangements are lush and layered enough to be interesting without sounding too clunky or overly ambitious. The band members mesh flawlessly, both driving songs all together with biting force (as in the relentless “Midnight Child”) and weaving together songs out of varied layers laid down by each member doing his or her own thing (“The Orchard”). Either way, it all works, and the band is able to slip in and out of that mode effortlessly.

The High Violets’ sound is unmistakably 90s alternative/dreampop, which is to say there’s nothing particularly innovative about it. Indeed, they stay so married to the sound that the tracks will sort of run together if you’re not paying attention, and even really good songs sort of lose their edge. This is particularly true of the last two tracks (“Murmur” and “Vortex”), which are instrumentals. Even though they sound nothing alike, if you just have them on in the background, they just sort of become one song to your brain. The place where they really overdo it is the vocals. Lead singer Kaitlyn ni Donovan’s voice perfectly suits this music, more so than guitarist Clint Sargent, who takes the lead on “Cine” and “The City.” But they both feel the need to practically whisper everything they sing. On top of that, the atmospherics are so dense that the vocals are buried in a sort of digital murk. These two factors make it almost impossible to really understand the lyrics at all (even if you turn it up all the way. Trust me, I tried). The one exception is “The Believer,” where ni Donovan sings clearly and the vocal effects are kept at a minimum. This is the band at their best, and it’s a shame they didn’t take this straight-on approach with the rest of the album.

The High Violets have been around for a while and it shows in their music. Rather than struggling with sound or identity, they know exactly who they are. Because of that, it would be nice to see them take that confidence and branch out and experiment with their sound a bit. Overall, though, Cinema is a solid album and worth a good listen.

Jim Becker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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