Occasionally fun, largely derivative
It has to be said: Tall Heights’ third album Pretty Colors For Your Actions has one of the absolute worst album covers of the year. Besides the lame pseudo-futuristic font that tops the cover, it’s framed around the sketch of a purple eye that’s split down the middle for some reason, while Tall Heights lead duo Tim Harrington and Paul Wright stand in front of it, blindfolded because these guys… share a third eye? It’s a high schooler’s idea of trippy, to be sure.
Obviously, it’s unfair to judge the music based on the album cover, although many of the issues that plague the album cover speak to many issues within the album itself: uninspired and overly simplistic, maybe better as an idea than the actual execution. Tall Heights’ sound is replete with its influences, indie folk in the vein of Bon Iver and, to a lesser extent, Fleet Foxes, with an emphasis on electronic elements. Pretty Colors For Your Actions never fully overcomes, subverts or even really plays with these influences. Tracks like “White Frost” strike too close to that Bon Iver-vibe that Tall Heights seem to chase across their latest record, without ever living up to the comparison.
There are a few interesting tracks here, however. Whenever Tall Heights really stretches out their sound, experiments or introduces a new element, the result is a lot more interesting than their straightforward indie pop. An example of this is the horn part on “House on Fire,” an at first surprising addition that provides structure and atmosphere to what becomes an album highlight. The added horn almost turns the song into a Springsteen track, which is a high compliment to any energetic pop group, even if they’re not from New Jersey. It’s the kind of energetic pop where Tall Heights really come alive, a feeling that doesn’t really pop up again until album closer “Roanoke.”
That spark of experimentation is spread much too thin across Pretty Colors For Your Actions for it to do any good, unfortunately. Harrington and Wright too often play into their broadest instincts, preferring a vibe of sonorous and soothing tracks that offer no differentiation from the stable of indie folk boys that sound just like them.