©Maeghan Donohue Used with permission of the artist.
At some point, one must put the fangirl aside and looks deeply into the band you’re into. Last December, “Bloodfeather” roared into the car on my way to somewhere, and my brain twisted. It’s never fixed itself. The past year’s been a hella ride with the band from Cape Cod by way of Brooklyn, and I’ve loved every second. Because of the mental doors that their music kicked open, I started this blog and developed hundreds of friendships. Now, the band’s second collaboration with producer Joel Hamilton, “The Boy Who Died Wolf” is due out Nov. 18. Let’s see and hear how Highly Suspect holds up, shall we?
The first thing that must be said is that the new album is truly a symbiotic partnership between producer and band. For the first album ‘Mister Asylum’, it seemed like band and producer were curious as to where the material could be twisted in the studio. Joel Hamilton’s production kept the sound clean, with minimal background clutter, so that the brilliance of the lyrics and melody stood on their own. The result was kizmet and two Grammy nominations for Highly Suspect, and two nomination nods to Hamilton.
“The Boy Who Died Wolf” is the result of that album getting those Grammy nods. The second time around the band and Hamilton had the breathing space to unleash what they as a team could do with the music. So, Joel Hamilton unfurled a magic carpet of sound that swirls around the inside of your head like a typhoon. He used instruments, gadgets, and whatever was on hand to layer the tracks with sound upon sound. I asked producer Joel Hamilton if he thought there was a ‘bad’ song on this album?
“I don’t think so. I worked long and hard with those guys to make it stand up straight and be a real follow up. I like every song.”
This knitting of sound begins on the first original release on the album, “My Name Is Human”. It’s an out of the gate wave of production layers, tense and loaded with all the bells and whistles. “F.W.Y.T” is a haunted house of a song, and the best example of Hamilton’s multi layered technique. “Look Alive, Stay Alive” is an irreverent but brutal punk kick with some wicked drum and bass work from Ryan and Rich. Hamilton and the band go minimalist where needed. “Little One” is a sparse love song, and “Chicago” the piano laced ballad that is the emotional core of the album. “For Billy” is a faster tribute to a friend who died during recording. The previously released single “Serotonia”, Johnny’s bluesy ode to California, finds a home on the album, but flows seamlessly with the rest of the material.
A few of the songs address the rock and roll lifestyle that they both claim to love and hate equally. “Postres” is a hilarious piano rocker about fame not changing the band. “Wolf” is in the great tradition of rock road songs of yore, is a ‘fuck you’ to the band’s doubters. Solo guitar on “Wolf” from Tash of the London Souls shreds. “Viper Strike” is the uncanny punk rap about our current creepy political climate that was so timely the band released it the day after the U.S. presidential elections. The one song that makes me scratch my head is “Send Me An Angel” a strange out of left field remake from the 80’s band Real Life. It’s cool, but kinda random.
Joel Hamilton and Highly Suspect needed a strong sophomore effort to keep momentum going, and they delivered. “The Boy Who Died Wolf” is due out on Nov. 18, and will be available on all streaming and online music outlets.