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High Waters – Goodnight Mara – Album Review

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Experimentation is a tricky game, but less so if you know your craft. Ottawa’s High Waters’ debut LP Goodnight Mara, is an album that changes tone not only song-to-song but verse-to-verse. The indie sound mixes bits of Hey Rosetta, First Aid Kit and others with their own experimentation.

The album opens frantically on “Up To The Sea” which walks the line between chaotic and serene with a master’s control. There’s an undeniable pop sensibility in the writing here both rhythmically and melodically and the sound crafting shines briefly in the song’s bridge. The song has a hook to it that begs to be heard every time a radio turns on. Things get dark on “Mercury” where droning and reverb create a rain cloud over the song matched by the ghostly drums. The song takes a hard left turn halfway through when it gains some funky riffing that it sticks with until the finale.

Quiet Guest” opens on a killer percussion line that soon gives way to a bright guitar tone and vocals. The song later steps into Latin-riffed bridge, with polka rhythm not unlike Queens of The Stone Age, before flowing into an effects drenched freestyle section it doesn’t leave til the end of the song. “Obsidian” is one of the eeriest songs on the album with a high pitched drone and dark twangs leading the track. Halfway through the song jazzes things up, literally, when it changes gears completely to become an ambient Nina Simone-styled track.

Although “Time and Again” starts a little slow, the explosion of energy and sound from the chorus is well worth the wait. Quickly becoming a heavy-rocking headbanger, it effortlessly kicks things up a notch, before faking listeners out into a high octane, sonic jam that leads to another killer chorus. The track becomes a lot more ambient and slow from then out, never returning to its once insane energy but satisfying nonetheless. The band quiets down on “Holden” whose beautiful string arrangements beg listeners to remember something long gone. The song climaxes in a golden section of ooo’s and strings working in harmony until the strings fade to let the song draw to a close.

Despite the ominous sounds opening of “The Greys” they quickly fall behind the glistening guitars and strings to create a moody slow jam that beckons without ever raising its voice. “Rip” blends melody after melody together in its verses before moving to two great rhythm driven prechoruses that make your body want to move. When the song finally releases this energy it blossoms into a beautiful mix of guitars and drums that burns out as quickly as it was lit.

The riffs come to the forefront of “Drop by Drop” with some bass finally getting the weight they missed before. The vocal harmonies take the lead in this song as they accent the tumbling feeling the drums create. “Isabelle” is the most experimental track on the album, mixing electronic with some exotic melodies for a song that leaves a feeling of unease throughout.

Heavy Bells” lets the vocals drive on an ever-changing back drop of grooves, that eventually come to the forefront in a solo inspired by Rush’s exotic and distorted styles before fading away to the ether of feedback. The album closes on the mysterious dance of “The Act“, who while containing one of the widest sonic ranges on the album, always feels led by its creative drumming. The song’s final notes leave a Beatles-esque pleasant feeling and intrigue of exactly what made that sound, flashing their songwriting prowess to the very last drop.

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Goodnight Mara, released through Ottawa-based So Sorry Records, is available via Bandcamp and you can keep in touch with High Waters through their Facebook and Twitter pages.

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