Sheffield England’s next great band, The High Hazels have release their first full length album, the self titled High Hazels. The band stylings has been likened to bands like Joy Division, The Smiths, Radiohead, The Coral and Elbow. They also fall into a creative group of new bands including, The Dexters and Drowners. The High Hazels have found initial success with their EP In the Half Light released in April of 2014.
The band spent two years honing their craft before going into the studio. The release was recorded at Cottage Road Studios in Leeds and was produced by Matt Peel of Pulled Apart by Horses and Egulls fame, and mastered by Robin Schmidt (The Coral and Jake Bugg).
The band grew up in the suburbs of Sheffield, England. The name for the band came from a park near the area where they all grew up. The members of the band are James Leesley , vocals and guitars, Scott Howes, Guitar, Paul Barlow, Bass and guitar, and Anthony Barlow, drums. The band has known each other since childhood and yes the Barlows are brothers.
Their music has a finesse and transcendence, with a lilting songwriting style and stark directness. The band’s love of vintage guitars and use of major sevenths creates a floating intertwining melody. They have described their efforts as keeping things uncluttered and give things plenty of space.
The breezy Valencia is a bright pleasurable song that is a lovely vignette of a Spanish vacation. Great guitar play and nice reverb work is a feature. The compelling rhythm reflects Spain and the name sake town, an upbeat anthem for the doleful.
Loneliness Inn features a nice vocal and musically and structurally reminds me of Chris Isaak’s early work. It is an earnest heartfelt song about yearning for love. It is the happiest song about loneliness I have heard in a long time. The next track Banging On My Door has an almost 60’s at the hop feel. Incisive lyrics describe the disappointment of love gone wrong. It is quirky but engaging. “That’s when the bad idea comes banging on my door”. The lyric describes the scene of a boy idealizing a girl and everything is fine till he gets the idea he should actually talk to her.
Night Song is another sweet love song. Lullaby like, it is a song about first crushes and idyllic loves. Hanging Moon is the stand out of the disc with a beautiful shimmering vocal. The vocal lilts across the surface of this enthralling song. The solid production enhances the purity of the guitar interplaying with the lyric. The song discusses the heartbreak of a lad at the end of a relationship where the girl has moved on and he hasn’t. Anyone who has suffered a broken heart will appreciate this song.” It’s coming to the end of the reel and I still don’t know how I feel.”
Misbehave is an upbeat retro 60’s song. A hook laden pop song that harkens back to a simpler time. This song along with How Long is it Going to be are full of stylistic pop yearning. When you think you have figured out The High Hazel’s the track Shy Tide changes things up. A lovely acoustic guitar and sensitive vocal evoke a delicate emotional song. The song is simple and organic and a definite standout tune.
Hearts are Breaking is a song where the quality production serves the song. It is shimmering and direct, with soaring vocals and a wall of swirling guitars. The final song, The Promenade is a mid tempo song, dreamily hypnotic tune, with intertwined reverb guitars and Hammond organ that all together create an engaging wall of sound. Promenade is a great closing song for the release.
The release is an impressive first full length release for the band. There is much to like on the record. The members all have something to offer and Leesley’s voice is pleasing. The instrumentation is quality and the songs are well written. A little variety in the type of song they are performing will not go amiss in the future, as one can have bit too much of the lovelorn yearning thing over a long play release. That being said the songs are engaging and show the band’s great potential with the right songwriting decisions the band could go far. It will be interesting to see what direction the band takes on their next release. Here is hoping they can get the notice they will need to take the next step.
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