Tall Heights are an extremely talented group of vocalists and musicians. They are one of the few understated bands that I just cannot seem to shake when I listen to them. Their sounds just sticks with me after each listen. There’s a particular style of vocal progressions that give Tall Heights their distinctive sound. There’s never been a band quite like them and that’s what makes them so fantastic. Their recent release Man of Stone is full of the kinds of indie music hits that keep readers of this blog coming back for more.
Beginning with “Controlled Burn” there’s a cohesive sound to Tall Heights that integrates vocal sounds with guitar very well. A careful listen reveals subtle strings filling the background of the sound, making it feel quite full. I struggle to know for sure the meaning of the lyrics, but it seems to be about the fire of young love and the influence it has on the families involved. The affect of the song seems to suit that theme well.
The second track is the title track, “Man of Stone” and really brings for the characteristic Tall Heights sound with a blend of synchronized lead vocals and intricate harmonies. What makes these harmonies so unique is that they don’t just sit on the fifth or the seventh, as many harmonies do. Rather, they seem to bounce around on harmonics that just don’t seem standard for vocalists to highlight. The transitions between harmony and joint melody seem to provide the perfect touch to make key lyrics stand out. While he’s always been a silent figure, he’s never been the man of stone. I’m not going to guess totally what that means, but I like what it makes me think about.
The third track “Murmuring State” has a high pitched sound that, whether I like it or not, reminds me of Bon Iver. The harmonies on this track really make it pop. In fact, it’s one of the best on the entire album. There’s a real sense of adventure to the song. It’s not overly epic, but it just has the tactile features of a journey from the soundscapes to the way the band delivers the lyrics. In reality, the lyrics aren’t just about a temporary journey, but rather a life story. It’s pretty good. You should check it out.
“The Running of the Bulls” was on the EP of the same name and received its due praise in that review. I thoroughly enjoy the song and still find it a delight. “Out of the Ground” is another quality track. It seems to take on a different sound, focusing on a bit of a tighter sound overall. It reminds me, for some reason, of a madrigal tune. It puts me in mind of both the troubadours of old, as in several hundred years ago, while also supporting a Simon and Garfunkel sound in another sense. The two blend for a unique and enjoyable sound that is both whimsical and powerful. Oh the hopeful message is this: “of all of the ways I’ve buried myself, I’m rising up out of the ground.” That will work!
“Flash Boom” is a contender for song of the album for me. It is maybe the most thoroughly “folk” song on the album as I hear it. What makes these duo harmonies so good is, as I mentioned earlier, their unconventionality. This track highlights perhaps better than any other. The lyrics of the song drive home a deeply intimate relationship. Conjuring imagery of a deeply spiritual nature, the band expresses “take these hands… take these feet… oh take anything you need.”
When I heard “Learn Again” I instantly shared it with a friend. It was as if she could have written the song. That’s what makes it such a great song to me. It has all of these bright and important characteristics that compose a rich a vibrant flavor, yet at the same time it seems so subtle and accessible. It talks about things like paying taxes and being forgetful; but still, it’s fundamentally about learning how to love someone. This is by far the lyrical masterpiece of the album and one of the best pieces of lyrical songwriting I’ve heard this year.
Overall this is a must buy for fans of duo folk music. For people that like full sound harmonies, this might not be the top album of the year. But even still, the lyric turns and unique harmonies on this album will be enough to earn Tall Heights a lot of new fans. We’re hoping they’ll tour down our way so that we can get a chance to hear this brilliance in person. Do yourself a favor and check out a few of these tunes. If you like it, consider throwing them the ten bucks for a digital copy and share it with some friends. It’s good, honest music. And that’s what we love to support and spread.