ALBUM REVIEW: Highasakite, “Silent Treatment”


Highasakite are a Norwegian indie pop quintet that came on the scene with a pretty big bang. They received high praise for their breakout performance at Norway’s Øya Festival in 2012 and their debut EP, “In and Out Of Weeks,” was also critically acclaimed. So it comes as no surprise that their first full-length album, Silent Treatment, due out March 4th via Propeller Records, is a quietly confident and engaging record that further proves they’re no rookies.

The band’s got quite the lineup of instruments and talent at their disposal, with Trond Bersu on drums, Øystein Skar and Marte Eberso on synths, Kristoffer Lo on guitar, and the formidable Ingrid Helene Håvik singing and playing zither and steel drum. But it’s clear from the very beginning of Silent Treatment that they have a delicate touch, blending their skills with an expertise that allows their music to go from sweeping and spacious to very dense and back again. The opener, “Love, Where Do You Live?,” is a piano-driven, dramatic ballad that steadily builds momentum and leaves you feeling like you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, wind blowing your hair back, in some kind of majestic movie scene.

In fact, Highasakite’s best work are the slow burners, which demonstrate the band’s knack for cinematic and atmospheric music that prompts a sort of catharsis. The subdued and scintillating “My Only Crime” is a lovely highlight, and on the other hand so is “The Man On The Ferry,” which utilizes rolling drums and instrumental distortions to make the tune sound slightly dark and powerful. “I, The Hand Grenade” is another stand out that unravels quite beautifully, layering electronic elements, piano, clattering percussion, and passionate vocal harmonies singing “I, the hand grenade / I bash into the table and burst and you bring out your worst.”

The band finds a way to draw a line between Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men with their particular brand of indie pop. Silent Treatment certainly lives up to the name Highasakite built for themselves and is a solid debut full length.

ALBUM REVIEW: Yellow Ostrich “Cosmos”

Since beginning his solo project Yellow Ostrich, singer-guitarist Alex Schaaf has been making music prolifically and with fanatical focus. Within a couple of years of its inception, while Schaaf was still a college student, Yellow Ostrich had recorded two full-length albums and three EPs, each of which barreled with blinders on in a direction that had little in common with that of the previous release. In 2009, one of Yellow Ostrich’s earlier releases, The Serious Kids EP, consisted of a six-track foray into acousti-fied electronic dance music. The same month, a Morgan Freeman tribute EP surfaced on the group’s Bandcamp page. Suffice it to say that Schaaf doesn’t shy away from experimentation, nor the prospect of devoting an entire album to that experimentation.

Yellow Ostrich has grown since those days. Having added drummer Michael Tapper, and then, later on, bassist Zach Rose and Jared Van Fleet on keys, Schaaf remains the center of the band. Though as a solo artist, the sheer amount of sound Schaaf was able to orchestrate was impressive, it’s difficult now to imagine Yellow Ostrich without Tapper’s drum work. But though beefier instrumentation makes Schaaf’s penchant for big, unpredictable themes a bit less obvious, those deeply delved-into concept albums are by no means an outgrown phase for Yellow Ostrich.

By way of preparation, Schaaf moved into the band’s windowless Brooklyn practice space for nine months before writing the songs on Cosmos. There, he studied astronomy, and artificially recreated of the cycle of daylight and night in lieu of going outside. When he did start to write, the album developed an obsession with darkness and light. “Pull the shades down and never let go,” Schaaf intones on “Shades,” and then inverts the image in the following track with the wearily repeated line “hiding under the brightest light.” Less poppy and more violent than anything the group had so far put out, Schaaf’s vocals cycle over delicate electronics and heavy guitars like waves crashing unenthusiastically against a wooden dock at nighttime.


For all its well-researched complexities, Cosmos retains the element that’s been threaded through all of Yellow Ostrich’s deviations: it assumes, for lack of a better term, a sense of wonder in its audience. It’s easy to find sections of Schaaf’s vocal track precious, his looping melodies boring. The group has, in interviews, expressed preference for playing college campuses, and it’s easy to see why: the ideal Yellow Ostrich fan is deeply enthrall-able and eager to suspend disbelief. Even if the group’s grand, far-flung scope won’t appeal to all listeners, the prospect of being invited to dig deep in this album adds an allure to the deceptively catchy, pulsing echoes of Cosmos.


Walk, don’t fly, over to Facebook for more Yellow Ostrich. Listen to “Shades,” off Cosmos, below:

ALBUM REVIEW: True Love Kills the Fairy Tale


“It feels as though we found each other, when we reflect back on the myriad of minutia decisions that were made to cross paths at that exact point in time,” says Phaedra Greene of the fateful day when she and sister Elsa met producer/songwriter Ryan Graveface. The story goes that Ryan stumbled upon the sisters singing and playing autoharp under a tree in a park in Savannah, GA, and the trio have been collaborating as The Casket Girls for the two or so years since. Phaedra continues, “it begs the question, was it the first time we met?”

This mystic sensibility is what the group have become known for, to an extent, and it colors the sound of their upcoming sophomore album, True Love Kills the Fairy Tale, out Feb. 11th via Graveface Records. The ten-track record comes with its own bizarre backstory: allegedly, all of the lyrics were written in one night while the sisters were in some sort of semi-conscious dream state (“Elsa was sobbing and reciting poetry while Phaedra was just staring straight ahead and writing it all down, like catatonic,” according to Ryan) and they have no recollection of it at all. But despite these questionable origins, the final product is a rather focused and lush sounding album.

True Love Kills The Fairy Tale begins with a winking electronic beat and the sisters’ haunting, harmonious “oooh”s. As the album progresses, the production becomes ever more dense. “Day to Day,” for example, has a distinct shoegaze-y wall of sound quality to it and a slow tempo that lulls you into a haze. The title track features a lot of fuzz and some interesting instrumental work—acoustic guitar? banjo?—near its end, which is refreshing to hear midway through the electronically inclined album. “Holding You Back,” on the other hand, has a quintessentially pop sound to it, with ‘80s influences to boot. The lyrics, meanwhile, explore the tension and balance found in dichotomies (as in “Chemical Dizzy,” in which the girls sing “Opposites only exist with each other”) as well as more metaphysical themes (like the concept of “unrequited reality” from the first track, “Same Side”).

Though the album is pretty purely pop, it remains instrumentally grounded in Graveface’s mechanical blips. A straight-shot listen might make some of the tracks come off as repetitive, but The Casket Girls have a pretty specific sound which they do very well. Droning and entrancing, True Love Kills the Fairy Tale leaves you blissed out and bobbing your head along to the catchy riffs.