Forget sticking to a genre, Jackie Highway has too much in her brain to stifle it with just one or two styles. She is clearly very well trained in music performance and arranging, traits she refined during her time spent touring Europe in an orchestra. She was only a teenager at the time. Not to mention her years enhancing the instrumentation of bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to the B-52s. There’s a great spread of influence in her art and even more under the surface. I couldn’t help but hear moments that channeled the likes of Alanis Morissette and Regina Spektor, even Enya on her EP Solid State Sun.
“What Happens” is quirky and fun with Jackie’s vocal phrasing and tone. The edgy pedaled guitar fizzes in a soda of harmonies; the beat punctuates and begs for listeners to nod their heads. Single notes on the keys plunk along adding a touch of psychedelic reserve. “The Grant” is a wonderful disbanding of album direction. The gallant stamping of chords amidst a tinny snare with gated ride cymbal makes for a rich and intriguing introduction. The vocals climb a melodic idea that slips into an eastern scale then moves down the progression to ethereal chants and beautiful piano laden layers. The violin makes a lovely entrance near the end and you expect the song to gently fade away, but then the violin soars up to a peaking high note repeatedly marking the end of the phrase. The fade begins, but you don’t want it to.
Gorgeous piano and strings strut about on “Bach is my Boyfriend.” Such well-calculated chord movements and viola parts, it’s clearly a nod to her time in the orchestra and what better way than to honor arguably the most revered 18th century composer of all time. Plus it just has a good ring to it. Only problem with this piece – not long enough.
“Flowchart” is a romp of a track with stingy carnival horns and whistles; the odd ball among the crowd. “Snow, His Sun, Her Water” has Jackie sounding at times youthful and carefree with an almost intentionally loose use of diction.
From start to finish this latest release is an exciting journey. The fact that she did this EP by herself is truly commendable. While the songs vary in mood, the production stays consistent and balanced. Solid State Sun plays like a cohesive unit, but at the same time can be dissected into entirely different parts. I find that to be the mark of a great album.
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