Personnel: Ingrid Helene Håvik (vocals); Kristoffer Lo (guitar, dulcimer); Marte Eberson (Fender Rhodes piano, synthesizer); Kåre Christoffer Vestrheim (synthesizer, programming); Oystein Skar (synthesizer); Trond Bersu (drum machine, percussion, drum programming).
Recording information: Propeller Music Division, Oslo, Norway.
Photographers: Geir Mogen; Lasse Flode.
Norwegian pop eccentrics Highasakite follow up their breakout debut album with Camp Echo, a nine-song set named after one of Guantanamo Bay's seven controversial detention camps. After setting the record for the most consecutive weeks on Norway's pop charts with 2014's Silent Treatment, the Oslo-based quintet's sophomore disc arrives with a much higher profile and, at least from a lyrical standpoint, it's a much darker affair than its predecessor. At the center of Highasakite is frontwoman and primary songwriter Ingrid Helene Håvik, whose enigmatic vocals once again provide plenty of the band's allure. A somewhat moodier affair, Camp Echo's tracks deal with themes as heavy as the ravages of war, nuclear disasters, and global warming, often painting a bleak, if somewhat obscure, picture, even as the music shimmers and heats up. Songs like "My Name Is Liar," "My Name Is a Bad Neighborhood," and "I Am My Own Disease" don't come across nearly as desolate as their titles would suggest. On the contrary, the latter of those three is one the album's most overtly pop-minded tracks, with a lush rhythmic feel and a strong melodic hook. "Golden Ticket" is another late-album highlight with a bright melody and a big, propulsive chorus. In fact, Camp Echo's most beguiling tracks seem backloaded onto its more dynamic second half, with the skittering "Deep Sea Diver" proving to be another prime cut. Overall, it feels a bit uneven in places, but when they hit the right spots, Highasakite dazzle with their creativity. ~ Timothy Monger