Album Review: “Heroes and Halos” by The High Violets

The record opens with echoing synths that sound like lasers, starting the beautiful battle of love that is Heroes and Halos. This is the fifth record released by Portland, OR rockers, The High Violets and it’s clear the group is well-versed in creating lip-lickingly delicious music glazed in shoegaze. The High Violets are Clint Sargent, Kaitlyn ni Donovan, Luke Strahota and Colin Sheridan. The band was birthed from the remains of an older band of Portland’s past, Bella Low and the rest is history.

Heroes and Halos is a record of “him”, “he”, “his”, heartbreak, regret and the twisted yearning that comes from love’s pain, all wrapped up in Kaitlyn ni Donovan’s warm and lush voice. The opening cut, “How I Love (everything about you)” sets the tone perfectly for what’s to follow: dream-drenched ballads infused with drowsy guitars and perfectly seasoned with synths.

Then there is “Long Last Night.” Donovan’s voice floats higher than ever on this track, melting in your ears as reverbed guitar echoes endlessly. It’s clear that The High Violets have toned their music-writing muscles over the years and their experience in this realm has allowed them to create records like Heroes and Halos that give the listener no time to come up for air, only time to sit with and soak in beautifully constructed morsels of sound.

“Break a Heart” is a track that almost has a 50s/60s-oriented sound in the chorus, highlighting the diversity achieved by The High Violets. The track describes a man who has clearly broken the heart of the storyteller who knows all too well he is off to break another while understanding at the same time she must heal her own heart.

Beyond the gleaming instrumentals and shimmering songwriting, Heroes and Halos is a record created upon a foundation of poetry. The lyricism is stunning and I feel it is the scaffolding on which the instruments, melodies and sounds are bound. The A side closes with the title track, “Heroes and Halos”, a stunning example of The High Violets’ ability to play with words in ways the listener may not even be able to pick up on. These plays with words are only noticed upon reading the lyrics.

And grief, holding me tight, as we descend the stairs, the stares.

The B side kicks off with one of my favorite tracks, “Longitude.” The track is more up-tempo than a majority of the record and has a fresh rock quality to it while also a 90s subtlety embedded. In fact, the entire B side is something special. When you think The High Violets have reached their highest point, the second half of the record only escalates introducing Clint Sargent on vocals, giving your ears something new and sweet besides that of Donovan. In “Ease on”, Donovan and Sargent blend their voices, creating soft harmonies against trickling guitars that sound like they’re reverberating across an expansive, open land. And again they surprise you with the more psychedelic sounds of “Comfort in Light”, a track that forces the eyes closed and slows your breath. Finally comes the lullaby: “Hearts in Our Throats.” This is a simple beauty.

Heroes and Halos is a record to be listened to loudly in an open space, allowing the sounds to bounce, bound and finally seep luxuriously into your ears, mind and soul. The record is out now on St. Marie Records and can be purchased on iTunes or directly through their website.

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