REVIEW: Highways – Enjoy The Little Things EP

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Artist: Highways
Album: Enjoy The Little Things EP
Genre: Pop/Rock

I really dislike having to say this, as one of my pet hates is the music media’s tendency to lump all female-fronted rock bands into one group and compare them indiscriminately to each other, but the Paramore in this EP is actually unavoidable. It’s uncanny how much vocalist Sarah Buckley sounds like Hayley Williams and if that were a selling point for any of you please note that I’ve never found Ms. Williams to be in possession of a particularly capable set of vocal chords. Further, the brazenly non-threatening pop punk of it all dismantles everything else by being so stunningly predictable.

Now, I know that sounds harsh, and I really do want to like this crowd – their tumblr and facebook are so wretchedly adorable I feel like I’m punching a kitten. But I can’t seem to find anything other than mediocrity in this release, or at the very least, a little bit too much of everything and not enough of something.

“How Do You Like Me Now” is guitar pop by numbers, replete with sunny sound and attitude-infused instruments. The drums are quick and the guitar ambles off into a solo to give it some hint of aggression. While the singing commences quite well, the soaring verse selected to spur the song to its conclusion sees it descend into terse and pitchy, and there’s not quite enough flair elsewhere to conceal this. “Ever Since” highlights an issue that becomes much clearer later on, in the form of constant rasping guitar sounds that haven’t been filtered properly so that everything clashes into a disjointed mess. That said, the drums in the second verse kick the rhythm into check, and the song has some considerable drive and energy with a catchy enough chorus. The lyrics are all high school heroics and while I can put my inability to engage with same down to my age (I am a whizzen old 23, after all), it feels too ersatz and pastiche for my liking.

“Unregrettable” introduces a hint of melody for the first time, and builds to a neatly vivacious chorus. However, it’s all been mixed a little too loudly and what appeal is discernible is lost somewhere in the myriad of sound. Later on, this does feature some interesting breakdowns when it decides to set the noise to one side, and plays around a bit with structure and vocal layering to reveal some impressive dexterity, but the unnerving wail that follows said breakdown almost ruins its appeal. It has the potential to be a decent song, if you adjust the volume accordingly. “The Last Time” however follows in the wake of the above and undoes everything. Harmonies, vocals, and instruments all smash into one another with about the same level of subtlety and allure as a car crash. While it seems to be aiming for commanding and insistent, the music is insane – template solos peter resoundingly through all and sound increasingly obnoxious, while the singing is stretched to within an inch of its life. It ends up sounding uncontrolled, disorderly, and horribly cacophonous – or basically, just a big pile of noise. I genuinely think my ears hurt.

Happily though, “La Di Da” strips down to acoustics, which is sorely needed after the desperation of the foregoing. On the sole basis of its gentle, relatively understated approach, this song has a shy appeal of its own. The singing is still pretty awful, especially when it aims for potency near the end, but when there’s nothing to assault your ears on top of it it is distinctly more bearable. The band then conclude matters with a demo named Victory that is, for all intents and purposes, a recycled mash up of the other songs. It ticks all the relevant pop punk boxes and then disappears.

And that, as they say, is that. Enjoy the Little Things will undoubtedly set the market on fire but unless you’re really into this sort of more-is-more pop punk stuff steer well clear. Buckley has some potential but really needs guidance to prevent her voice shooting off into screech territory, and the music could be improved upon if they’d only learn how to take things a little easier. Nonetheless, this combination tends to find favour with the youths, so expect to hear more from Highways.

SCORE: 5/10

Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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