So here’s a band and album that might have many of you ducking out for Google and Wikipedia.
The High Dials are a Montreal-based psych rock band whose driving force is Trevor Anderson. Originally called The Datsons, they got their start in and about 2001 and had to change their name a few times because they learned it was taken by other, more established groups. They landed on The High Dials around 2003 and released their debut album, “A new devotion”, that same year. In 2005, they released “The war of the wakening phantoms”, a psych rock masterpiece that received rave reviews from all corners and really should have made them stars. However, justice was not served and in 2008 they were self-releasing their third album, “Moon country”.
I was really looking forward to this album after become completely infatuated with their previous release and I wasn’t disappointed at all. It is 14 tracks of throwback psych mixed with folk, drone, country, power pop but all with an eye to the future. It was released on CD and in digital formats like MP3 but still marketed itself as two sides, a nod to a vinyl past and future resurgence that had not yet fully taken hold. Like their other albums, the songs are great on their own but taken as a whole, listened to as they were meant to be, they feel an invincible force and you can’t believe that you are one of the few people in the world that have experienced them.
The High Dials are still a going concern despite always operating on the periphery. They’ve released two more albums since “Moon country” and a new EP just last year that I still haven’t gotten around to but intend to do so very soon. In this environment where there is so much music at our fingertips and so little time for new discoveries, I still say this group and especially this album is worth your precious moments. Have a look at my three picks for you below and let me know what you think.
“Clare”: “The future’s no place for me. Watch it sink like a boat in the sea. Tie my past to the mast. It can all go down.” It’s a lazy beat and even lazier vocals. Sounding like floating on the moon or on a cloud of ether, Trevor Anderson’s breathy voice here is fed through echo chambers of reverb. There’s lots of layers for such a simple sounding concept of a song but there you have it. Harps to close things out. Of course.
“Killer of dragons”: Electronic beats set against the strum of an acoustic guitar hint at a blurring of time and space. Eerie synths are added and the acoustic gives way to pedal-mutated electric guitars but the beat remains the same. Meanwhile, Trevor sings a tale reminiscent of Don Quixote. “Bring your bow and arrow and fortified wine. Take a taxi to the caves tonight.” Yeah, “Killer of dragons” inhabits a modern world rife with magic and the fantastical… or is it just the fortified wine? No matter. It’s a great tune to close your eyes to, adjust your noise cancelling ear phones and ride out the waves of dizziness.
“Book of the dead”: This final track, which follows the previous one discussed on the album, track five on ‘side one’, is the one that reminded me the most of the work on their previous album, “War of the wakening phantoms”. It is crazy upbeat and danceable, snakes and ladders guitars, frenetic beats, and plenty of haziness and dreams. It meshes Manchester craze with shoegaze introspection and a handful of psychedelic pink pills, making for a beautiful party in your head. “Secrets I need. Secrets you can read from my book of the dead.” Not sold yet? Listen to it again! You’re obviously not doing it right.
Check back next Thursday for album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:
10. Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes”
9. The Submarines “Honeysuckle weeks”
8. Schools of Seven Bells “Alpinisms”
7. Glasvegas “Glasvegas”
6. Spiritualized “Songs in A & E”
5. Elbow “The seldom seen kid”
4. Death Cab For Cutie “Narrow stairs”
3. Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend”
You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.