History of the Highways - S/T

Released August 5, 2014

By Rose Morris

Up until a few years ago, I couldn’t stand what I labelled as “girly” music. I was much more into the sound of male vocalists, and the female singers that I did like were ladies like Tracey Chapman and Joan Jett whose voices were deep, strong, and almost masculine. Then something in my brain flipped, and now I can’t get enough of ultra-feminine singers with high vocal ranges. History of the Highways gives me just want I want in that respect – a badass chick singer whose voice sounds like it’s been dipped in sugar and dressed in lace.

History of the Highways’ cotton-candy sweet vocals have an edgy indie-kid vibe with a rich, classic maturity (think Sleigh Bells meets Stevie Nicks) and a haunting quality that finds its way into your head and curls up there for days on end. This is the kind of album you can listen to once and find yourself humming under your breath (in public, without realizing it) the next day. The catchy melodies and expertly layered guitar, piano, synth, and drums come together to create a rich sound that is as complex as it is calming.

My immediate favourite song on History of the Highways’ self-titled digital album is Baryshnikov (although Combat Rock is a close second) because of its lilting melodic chorus and dreamy, vaguely psychedelic electric guitar riffs that are easy to get lost in. The song ends with the instruments being cut short and the lead singer’s crisp vocals coming into the forefront which snaps you out of your reverie and showcases just how well this songstress can hold her own.

The thing I love most about this band is the way they can combine sweet vocals with morbid lyrics to produce a bewitching, mildly creepy, entirely wonderful creation. The best example of this comes in the form of the song Baby Angels, which contains images of death and the loss of a child (“we so sorely miss you / down here on the ground /now your crib is empty / your toys make no sound / but I can hear the wind / it blows your empty swing around”), yet sounds like an upbeat love song on first listen. Although the lyrics are heart-wrenching and in this song the sugary sweet vocals come off as a bit of a sick joke, it works. It works so damn well. This song is pretty, and the contrast between the melody and the lyrics gives it interest, complexity, and honesty.

All in all, this is a great listen for when you want something beautiful with a bit of an edge. History of the Highways has a fresh sound that I’m certain we’ll be hearing more of in the future, and I for one can’t wait.