Album Review: High Up – You Are Here

High Up singer Christine Fink didn’t originally intend to become a singer, but after working in a series of unfulfilling jobs she found herself drawn to performing in karaoke bars. She would sing classic soul songs and tear down the house every time. Eventually she moved to Omaha and began working with her sister, musician Orenda Fink, writing songs together for this new band High Up. Their debut album You Are Here, produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, combines soul influences with a gritty garage rock sound to create a ferocious collection of songs.

Alabama to the Basement is a good representation of the distinctive style of this band, with its pounding stomp, distorted rock vocal and brass section. Fink has soul but she’s not afraid to scream either, like on the second track Two Weeks. When she sings ‘same shit, different day’ you really feel her frustration at the brutal reality of life.

Covering a Bright Eyes song might seem an unusual choice considering the musical style of High Up, but there are actually strong connections between both bands. Alongside producer Mogis, other members of High Up include Matt Focht and Todd Fink of The Faint as well as aforementioned Orenda Fink, all of whom have collaborated with Bright Eyes in the past. This album is also released on the Team Love record label which was founded by Conor Oberst himself. High Up take the doom folk of Make a Plan To Love Me from Cassadaga and transform it into a bluesy classic rocker with a vocal performance that Janis herself would be proud of.

Exploring the complex nature of shifting emotions, Blue Moon is the most powerful and poignant moment on the record. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to fix yourself, or stop the ‘impending doom’. The line ‘ I need you to listen but I made you deaf’ is a devastating moment of self-awareness.

Then we have the horror story of Girl Walking Home Alone At Night, inspired by a disturbing real life incident. This is a howl of fear and anger at the truth of women’s experiences, painful to hear but vitally important to listen to.

Domino and Your System Failed You address problems with a capitalist society and how it tries to ‘keep us in line’. These songs are a fuck you to the American Dream, exposing how it has chained people to an unfair system that oppresses them.

Glorious Giving In has more of a girl group influence, and is one of the best songs on the album. You Can’t Give Up On Me and Before the Storm are dramatic soul numbers, with their energy barely contained. You have to think that these songs are probably best experienced live, where Fink’s vocal fire can be really let loose. I have no doubt she could burn any place straight to the ground.

On the album cover is a sky full of stars, with an arrow pointing to a small dot labelled ‘You Are Here’. But for all the simmering frustration on this record I don’t interpret that title and image as about feeling insignificant in terms of the universe. Instead these songs are a shout and a roar into the abyss, as if the band are saying: we exist, so listen. And that is exactly what I recommend you do, right away.



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