REVIEW Highland Kites — Long Road (SINGLE)
“Long Road” is the stunning new single from Nashville alt rockers Highland Kites. Crushing guitar bellows and a steady stream of percussion, this song focuses on self-discovery and climbing out of the dark, pushing for clarification and realization. Wrapped into is fabric are the beguiling Marissa Lamar vocals, tightly pressed to the Neil Briggs-led drums. Faint of heart, but not faint of sound, “Long Road” travels the sonic scape like a well-tuned band on the verge of reaching the masses.
The song begins with dramatic percussion, a winding guitar meanders its way into focus. The tones and the vibe are murky, but not bluesy or swampy. It feels distant, like the instrumentation is curving around. If this song were a painting, the beginnings and the ends would be a dynamic expression of chiaroscuro. The music undercurrent releases a bold stance, a moving force. When Lamar enters the picture, her guitar playing in toe, she’s the light, the stark fragility. There’s a bounce in her voice, a sensitive creature unraveling before our ears. I would liken her style and her disposition to that of Jenny Lewis. I found myself wanting more of her melodic turns, and the melancholier the better. Even in her sadness or despair, the layer of hope in her voice strikes through like sunlight hitting dawn. Still, that edge is teetering. The cracks in her confidence, her outer shell has been shaken. She’s genuine. Her voice carries life’s weight. Like the music bed, her voice has depth and character.
Briggs’ drum work fills the spaces like a beating heart. The rhythm section is quirky enough to feel like he’s both one step ahead and one step behind. Perhaps it mirrors life — you never feel like you’re in the right space and where you need to be, until well, maybe you have the gift of hindsight. The drums in “Long Road” channel a deeper evocative layer. When isolating the percussion, it’s a slow burn, a constant reminder that at any moment one’s path might change. I liked the way Briggs held back — this song might call for more emphasis and by keeping it tight, he guides the listener on a steady sonic journey. It might be easy to notch the drums under ‘doing their job’ or ‘met expectations’ on a review checklist, but in this case Briggs’ exceeded expectations. He reminds me a lot of Stuart Copeland (The Police), guarding the percussion kit like it was a sacred space that it is.
I’m impressed. “Long Road” kept me engaged and wanting more. I felt an instant rapport with the lyrics and the storyline, but also the beat and tones. I wanted to chase those echoes and they stayed with me for hours. “Long Road” is a finely crafted song — sounding not too produced or overdone in the editing booth. It’s gritty when it needs to be, and it’s soft at other times. Highland Kites, a duo to keep on your radar, has a hit on their hands with the fantastic “Long Road”.