Tall Heights – Juniors
I’m pretty sure the start of a new year is a time when you’re meant to reflect on all that transpired in the previous one, and move forward as someone older, wiser, and better prepared for what the future holds. At least, that’s the lie we tell ourselves. That’s the disguise we wear to blend in with other people that seem to know what they’re doing, when in fact we’re still fumbling around in the dark just as much as we ever were. No matter how convincing our charade may be, how steady our footing may seem, there’s always something that you’re wholly unprepared for just waiting to bowl you over round the next bend.
It’s through a series of such humbling tumbles that indie folk duo Tall Heights found inspiration for their new album. Entering the studio after suffering profound loss, supporting loved ones through health crises, enduring the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, and experiencing the more uplifting upheaval of welcoming new life into the world, all in a matter of months. Rather than attempt to put on brave faces, Paul Wright and Tim Harrington instead found a new outlook on life. To accept being unprepared for the road ahead, to view the uncertainty through a lens of youthful wonder and a sense of adventure, as Juniors. To approach every roadblock with humility rather than bravado, and see the value in all the life lessons that come from every unknowable bump in the road.
Their new-found joie de vivre can be keenly felt within opening track ‘Keeps Me Light’. The dreamy, thoughtful wandering of the verses arrives at purpose with the revelatory chorus. Embracing the chaos with such lines as “I don’t care if the darkness is soon to arrive … I don’t mind if the dawn doesn’t follow the night“, the already compelling chorus becomes damn near irresistible as it evolves into a vibrant and raucous a Capella sing-along.
However, most of Juniors‘ highlights come from its quiet moments of reflection. The more stripped back folk offerings that seek to savour the time we have and the people we’re lucky enough to share it with (“Not tryin’ to live forever, To me, that sounds like hell, ‘Cause we got a moment here…” on ‘The Mountain’). Tracks like ‘Raindrop’ which reflect on the things in life we can’t change, and espouse the need to take all that doubt and strife and learn to let go (“There’s enough about tomorrow that we know today, To come down into this sorrow in another way, And who knows what will be waiting, so let it get away“).
That’s the thing about ‘wonder’ – it’s something we generally think of as being grand and emphatic, but often the most profound revelations are born through the little things. New love isn’t formed through showy declarations and bouquets of roses, it’s all sparked by a mere glance or a smile. In the right moment the little things are wonder enough. The duo’s rekindled sense of adventure and desire to approach the world with a beginner’s eyes sometimes works against them on this record. Tracks like ‘Locked Out’, ‘Hear It Again’ and ‘Come Outside’ tend to interpret wonder by throwing everything the pair have got at you. Various layers of synths, strings, samples, backing vocals and electronic beats, all building upon the bedrock of folk. It leaves these moments feeling a bit too cluttered, embracing the chaos a little too literally. The most poignant snippets of lyricism get lost in the hectic arrangements, and they lack an absorbing hook of the calibre of album highlight ‘Keeps Me Light’ to compensate. That said, I’m willing to take the lesson of letting things go to heart, as Juniors‘ touching moments of tenderness are more than worth the few instances where Tall Heights happen to get a little carried away.