Everything Aside by Highbeams is an excellent album full of beautiful songs that are well sung, performed and produced.
“Tybee” opens the album with thick and full acoustic guitar strums. There are some gorgeous harmony vocals throughout (and good use of manipulation in the vocal tracks), subtle piano and a driving beat throughout. It’s an epic opener and it works. “Love Is Gone” is a chirpy Paul McCartney-ish folk song. Driven by a quick tempo the song moves from folk rock to a Mumford & Sons type stomp and then a rapid-fire vocal delivery. For a depressing lyric, there certainly is lots of joy and energy in the music, which works as a catchy and effective contrast. The end has a Lumineers-ish cheer and it’s a fun end to a catchy song.
“Day Job” has a catchy melody and an Irish drinking song-like vibe. Clever backing vocals evolve into their own feature near the end of the song and there are some great piano chords that fill out each chorus. “Not Close Enough” starts with a flashy guitar pattern that continues throughout, bringing excitement to the folk rock melody. The tambourine through the chorus also adds some great drive throughout, and the instrumental breakdown shows off more of the nimble guitar playing.
“The Cage” has a heart wrenching melody that lilts over a driving feel. The chorus is very well written with some accents over the descending bass line bringing out the groove. The instrumental is a little static, but short and the groove moves through it well. “Our Little Lies” is a melancholic folk song with mellow guitar and very fast lyrics. Again, the autotune over the vocals along with the quick attack loses some of the edge of the vocal delivery, and takes away from the intensity of the guitar strums and triplet-based drums. “Only Sunday” opens with a sound design of a beach before guitars come in strumming in 6/8 time. The lyrics are very direct, vulnerable and sincere, and they’re delivered with a very strong melody. It’s an excellent example of strong songwriting delivered well. “Home In The Holler” has a hushed vocal throughout the verse that opens up nicely in the choruses. The song is driven by marching snare rolls, arpeggiated high-strung guitars and an excellent harmony vocal that lets the melody just soar. “Feels Make Believe” could be a lost song by Gordon Lightfoot with its folk melody and guitar pattern. The piano interlude adds a depth and richness to the song and helps build into the introduction of the tambourine and drums to really drive the song home.
Two songs miss the mark just slightly and for the same reason. “Little Arms” is a gentle ballad that has a bit too much auto-tune on it. The voices sound so good on their own that the technological intrusion feels unnecessary. Still, the melody sweeps up and down in a nice way over the chords and the rim click on the drums makes for a head-nodding groove. Unfortunately the instrumental goes on a bit long not adding a lot of content except for a great evolution of the drums. The lyrics are very smart, and adding a bit more attention to the music could really help them jump out. “One Down” contains some smart lyrics and a really interesting bass line. The evolution of the vocal effects is interesting and though not quite as effective as it might want to be, adds some development throughout so is commendable for that.
“See You Again” closes the album building from solo voice and guitar to stacked vocals and rolling drums that sneak in over a reprise of the first track on the album. The harmonic squeals make for a nice atmospheric whistle anticipating the higher ranges of the melody. The song explodes with the drums pounding the snare and crashing the cymbals in between rolling toms and the piano doubling the guitar arpeggios making for a swirling kaleidoscope of sound.
Highbeams writes very smart songs with great lyrics and melodies. The more they trust themselves and don’t rely on too many effects, the more their inherent talent shines just like their namesake.
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