Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Highland Kites, a folk rock duo that consists of Marissa Lamar and Neil Briggs from Los Angeles. Their newest EP is ‘Let Me Run,’ an endeavor produced by Raymond Richards - the man behind work from bands like honeyhoney. Throughout its five tracks, Richards works with the two to great effect, and it’s a lovely web of songwriting. Let’s explore it.
‘Plastic Towns’ is an interesting introduction. It’s atmospheric; the cacophony of percussion and electric guitar banter intensifies as the song builds, and Lamar concretes herself as soft-spoken, but attention-demanding nonetheless. There’s a hint of honeyhoney in this equation, though honeyhoney is more country influenced. (I think honeyhoney is one of the best bands in the music scene right now, so high marks to Highland Kites for collaborating with Richards.)
‘Freckles’ is a beautiful love song, a ballad of sorts that softly incorporates Briggs on backing vocals. The chemistry here is stunning. Duos live or die by that ‘x’ factor, and Highland Kites are a pleasant listening experience that ‘clicks.’ Nothing feels forced or uncomfortable - it’s natural, organic, and wholly authentic.
‘This War Inside’ transitions in the middle of the EP, shifting farther on the side of the band’s spectrum that ‘Plastic Towns’ briefly explored in the opening of the album. There’s a bevy of sonic intricacy on ‘This War Inside.’ The synthesized walls of sound are spectacular, and Briggs’ performance on drums is incredible. The song evokes an Arcade Fire like style, and Lamar even sounds a bit like Regine Chassagne on it.
‘Humiliated’ is a dark track that recounts the aftermath of a rocky relationship that ended in humiliation. The production of the track is notably excellent, from the searing guitar riffing to the thunderous percussion. A tidal wave of atmosphere expands and engulfs Lamar toward the end of the track - it’s brilliant.
‘Let Me Run’ closes the album with an anthem of sorts, which again, is contrasted remarkably by the tenderness of Lamar’s performance and the intensity and epicness of the instrumentation backing her. “Believe me when I say it’s okay… Let me run,” Lamar croons in a resolute stance of independence after the shattered nature of ‘Humiliated.’
‘Let Me Run’ is a rather great EP. At five tracks, it’s the perfect dose of excellence from a duo that had their heads on straight and knew exactly how to execute their creative vision. When it drops next month, it’s very much worth having on your radar if you’re a folk pop rock fan.