Personnel: Kaitlyn Ni Donovan (vocals, guitar, strings, keyboards); Clint Sargent (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Jonathan Drews, Jeff Stuart Saltzman (guitar, keyboards); Luke Strahota, John Moen (drums); Collin Hegna (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Tony Lash.
Active since the late '90s, Portland, Oregon's the High Violets play a light, sugary brand of electronic-tinged dream pop. Unlike a lot of similar bands, they seem far more concerned with writing catchy, emotional pop songs than coming up with the most mind-bending guitar tones imaginable. Singer Kaitlyn ni Donovan has a soft, friendly voice similar to Saint Etienne's Sarah Cracknell, and she doesn't disguise it with echo or reverb. Her lyrics are direct and plainly stated, so there are no smoke and mirrors obscuring what she's trying to say. She's ecstatically in love on songs like "How I Love (Everything About You)," and she warns about dangerous guys on "Dum Dum" and "Break a Heart." The songs occasionally have a wistful tone to them, but they never really sound gloomy. When they're not upbeat, they seem to have more of a summery haze to them. The album's high point is its ecstatic, psychedelic title track, in which ni Donovan optimistically croons "it's hard for me not to see the beauty in our troubled life" over a swirling, fizzing groove. "Long Last Night" is a gentle, playful love song set to ticking Casio beats, while "Longitude" has a more urgent, upfront rhythm. Guitarist Clint Sargent takes the mike for "Ease One," which happens to be the darkest, most shadowy song on the album, as well as the one with the fewest lyrics. The album drifts to a close with the stirring, slightly cinematic drum machine lullaby "Hearts in Our Throats." ~ Paul Simpson