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REVIEW: TALL HEIGHTS, ‘NEPTUNE’

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Tall Heights
Neptune

Sony Music


Picture a male-led First Aid Kit with a pinch of Alt-J atmosphere. That’s what Boston-based Tall Heights has to offer on Neptune, the duo’s new, prog-folk concoction. Sound too weird? Well, don’t knock it ‘til you try it, because Neptune delivers in the biggest of ways. Diverse yet unified, ambitious but complacent, these seeming contradictions make for a fresh experience. From song one, Neptune’s bold flavor begs an ear. Give it both, and thank us later.

The premiere is “Iron in the Fire.” It has an elegance gleaming from the opening strums of guitar and bass that finishes as gracefully as could be hoped. “I will commit my soul to your door tonight,” sings both Tim Harrington and Paul Wright, guitarist and cellist respectively. So far, these Bostonians are one for twelve. It’s hard to choose a favorite on Neptune. The first two songs alone make strong cases for themselves, “Spirit Cold,” being the succeeding tune. James Bay fans: turn your attention here. The guitar picks, and even vocals, recall the platinum artist’s style. Don’t think of it as mimicry. It’s too distinguished for that. “River Wider,” showcases Wright’s cello from the first note. Later, some 80’s era synth sounds keep things trendy. “Who ever heard such a voice of excitement?” It’s as if they’re singing about all the attention this album will get on “No Man Alive,” or at least should get.

The first third of Neptune is a refreshing surprise. Can it be sustained, though? “The Runaway,” argues in the affirmative. Backing vocals add a nice touch on this one. “Infrared,” sounds like a soft, Gallant song. Wright and Harrington are anything but boring. Ambient affects sound like a dripping faucet. “Horse to Water,” best embodies that aforementioned First Aid Kit spirit. “Lead me back to the darkness like you do,” it goes, yet another winner. Neptune’s midsection says goodbye with “Backwards and Forwards.” Strings, and an interesting, Daft Punk-reminiscent vocal bit, finish it off. “Two Blue Eyes,” is one of the prettier options on Neptune. Add that one, and “Cross My Mind,” to your sleep playlist, they’re as gentle as anything else on it. There’s sparse drumming on “Growing.” The gaps are filled with equally sparse guitar work and gradual vocals. Sadly, Neptune finally closes with “Wayfarers.” The only demerit conceded comes on the last song. It feels unnecessary and incomplete with regards to the other astonishing eleven songs.

The slight hiccup on “Wayfarers,” is no reason to rob Neptune of the appreciation it demands. Damn near every one of the twelve compositions exceed any and all expectations. So what, the end drags for a meek two minutes. Talk about a diamond in the rough, this album has all the sparkle you can handle and some to spare. To think Wright and Harrington started things on the streets, literally, makes them a success story for the books. Check out Neptune, it deserves it.

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