Happy, bright indie rock album that’ll bring some much needed positivity
The High Water Marks return after a 10-year hiatus with their newest album, Ecstasy Rhymes. The album features the vocals of both Hilarie Sidney, co-founder of the Elephant 6 Collective, and her now husband, Per Ole Bratset. The half Norwegian, half American couple comes together to form an iconic songwriting and music-making duo once more.
People might know Hilarie Sidney from her association with the Elephant 6 Collective, which includes acts like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Apples in Stereo, her former band. The High Water Marks was formed after Sidney and Bratset met while in Oslo, Norway. They began writing and recording songs through the mail–a sort of musical love letter, if one will. Their first album, Songs About The Ocean, was released in 2004, and they continued to make music through 2013. After their last EP, they seemed to have disappeared into the wilds of Norway, until now.
Ecstasy Rhymes is exactly what it sounds like–pure ecstasy for an indie rock lover. Each song is fun, upbeat and leaves people’s heart aflutter. Listening to the album is a relatively short experience, coming in at approximately 39 minutes all together. While it’s short lived, it’s a much-needed burst of positivity in the very chaotic year that has been 2020.
The album opens with “Ode to Lieutenant Glahn.” Sidney’s voice is immediately a stand-out, as it’s very distinct and luminous. Her youthful vocals add a sense of wonder and joy to the song, which consists of a buoyant beat complete with cymbals, strings and drums. The song is one of two that references literature and history. Lieutenant Glahn actually comes from the pages of the Norwegian novel Pan, a story about two lovers who don’t understand each other’s love, which as it turns out, makes for a beautiful love song. The song “Pépin Le Bref” references an old king of France, Pepin the Short, and the father of Charlemagne. Like the other songs, it’s upbeat and cheery, with a really intense guitar-filled ending.
“Can You,” the first High Water Marks single in a long time, stands out from the rest of the album as the lyrics are clearer. It still has that very distinctive, fuzzy indie rock feel, with slightly less fuzz. It’s super catchy with its dizzying chorus, “Can you keep the clouds away, away, away…” It describes some of the beautiful scenery that Norway is known for, and is short and sweet. This song is followed by the titular “Ecstasy Rhymes,” which sounds like a nostalgic love song. The beat is very catchy, and it includes duet vocals from both Sindey and Bratset. This song truly showcases how amazingly their voices go together.
The fuzz that the album brings sort of embodies the feeling of being surrounded by snow fall, the world around one becoming blurry with snowflakes and increasingly beautiful with its new coat of snow. That is to say, the melodies that cover the lyrics add to the overall listening experience. “I’ll Be Formal (With You Because of It)” has one of the best melodies. It’s a happy medium between fast-paced and slow, which makes for a calming track. “Satellite” on the other hand, is a fiery spitball and is much faster. The song packs a punch and utilizes guitar and fun drum beats.
Ecstasy Rhymes is the record that will get people through the rest of this grueling year. The album in some ways encompasses Norway, where both Sidney and Bratset have lived for the past six years. The songs combine Norwegian novels, beautiful imagery and just plain happiness. Besides its intense cold weather and beautiful natural environments, Norway is also known as one of the happiest countries in the world. With its bright indie rock sound and upbeat melodies, this album is certainly evidence of that.