The world has been waiting a while for HIGHS’ debut full-length record. The band, made up of Doug Haynes, Karrie Douglas, Joel Harrower, Liam Cole and Paul Vroom, released a massively buzzed-about EP back in 2013, saw “Nomads” pop up in a trailer for Adult World, charting on CBC Radio 3, Hype Machine and CMJ, while also landing the band a record deal with Canadian indie Indica Records in 2014. Those 6 songs, which included alt-pop gems like “Summer Dress” and the aforementioned “Nomads”, coupled with increasingly high-profile gigs with bands like Twin Forks, Hey Ocean!, Cold War Kids, Modest Mouse, as well a coveted festival slot at WayHome Music & Arts Festival.
With critical buzz around the Toronto-based alt-pop band growing by the millisecond, it’s probably an understatement to say that Dazzle Camouflage was hotly anticipated. The album borrows its title from a British military tactic used predominantly in WW1 whose intention is to “not to conceal but to make it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed and heading.” (Wikipedia). It’s an appropriate description of Dazzle Camouflage, the album; insofar as the songs on the record are heavily layered with echoing guitar lines, group harmonies and memorable lyrics. Much like their debut EP, this record retains some of that summery, pop sheen, but they definitely show some teeth here, with some of the songs (notably, “Handsome Man” and “Portugal”) veering into heavier and moodier territories. It’s a pop record hiding in plain sight.
At its core, HIGHS is still a pop band, just one that synthesizes a number of diverse influences. The band is at their melodic best on songs like “Portugal”, where they essentially eschew a chorus – the most ‘pop’ of all musical conventions – in favour of harkening back to an earlier hit (“Summer Eyes”) and a shimmering guitar line. Vocally, they branch out into new areas on their full-length, with vocals from Joel Harrower on “Gabriel (Blind Boy)” and “So Sad, Never Mad”. Honestly, I could spend the next 600 words gushing about the anthemic, harmonized chorus on “Easy” and the bass lines in “I Do, Do You?”, or the incredible vocal performance of Karrie Douglas on “Acting Strange” – where she channels all the best parts of a Fleetwood Mac song.
If, like me, you’ve been anxiously awaiting this record, you’ll be absolutely enthralled with Dazzle Camouflage from the first moment you hit play. Go buy the record and go see ’em on tour. You won’t regret it. The band is going to be playing their first hometown headlining gig since their EP release at Lee’s Palace on April 30 (get tickets here), but will be hitting a couple of other Canadian cities (see dates here).
5 out of 5 stars
Must-Listen Tracks: “Portugal”, “Acting Strange”, “I Do, Do You?”
Buy Dazzle Camouflage on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/dazzle-camouflage/id1072500103