Summer isn’t over
U.S. Highball is an indie pop duo hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, and these guys are about as underground as it gets; other than their Bandcamp page and their profile on Lame-O Records’ website, the group is a ghost. Before their debut full-length release, Great Record, all the group had was a three-track EP, Think Again, which was released in November of last year. With just a few tracks (one of them being a cover of Television’s “Venus”) and running a little over ten minutes, it was a surprisingly crisp little slab of twee-tinged power pop. Their debut album, Great Record, mainly builds upon the sound they established, while leaning in on some serious surf influences.
One thing about this record that immediately stands out is the sense of camaraderie; there’s a type of chemistry between Calvin Halliday and James Hindle which can only be cultivated through a lifetime of friendship. The harmonies on this album are so tight that it isn’t that much of a stretch to compare them to the likes of Simon & Garfunkel. However, unlike the legendary folkies, U.S. Highball isn’t here to dispense some profound observations about society or what have you; they’re mostly here to have a good time. After a point, listening to this record feels very much like hanging out with some chill dudes; songs like “697 President” and “Do It Yourself” are punctuated with little snippets of dialogue, which help draw the listener further into the record.
This record is imbued with the same brand of “fun in the sun” vibes that have come to define the pop music of the late ’60s. No other track on this album encapsulates that essence more than track three, “Don’t Travel Far.” It’s got everything: twinkling trebled out guitars, surf-influenced drum patterns, an unrelenting organ, and a mean tambourine to keep things moving. But the aspect that sells the song is the harmonies in the chorus; nothing beats a good “ba ba baaaa.” Another standout, “Summer Boy,” wouldn’t sound at all out of place on a compilation of Bay Area psychedelic deep cuts; the interplay between the guitars is reminiscent of 5th Dimension-era Byrds. Clocking in at exactly one minute and ending on a half cadence, this song demands to be listened to on repeat.
Great Record lives up to its name. If this album suffers from anything, it’s the relative lack of sonic diversity, but the songs are still incredibly concise and consistent. In fact, due to the relatively uniform instrumental palette, Great Record bears a passing resemblance to the early works of fellow Glasgowian indie pop darlings, The Vaselines. This album holds a broad range of appeal, and any jangle pop connoisseurs will undoubtedly walk away from this record feeling satisfied.