The Highest Order, Toronto’s four-piece cosmic country fusion, return with their second installment, Still Holding, released August 16th.
Their label, Idée Fixe, is Toronto’s home of “music for contemporary adults.” No other title could be more fitting, as Still Holding, the sophomore album by cosmic country quartet The Highest Order sticks up its middle finger whilst lying comfortably on a sofa in a smokey country shack. It serves up a delightful blend of unrushed psych-inspired Americana all under the raspy guidance of vocalist Simone Schmidt.
Guitars dominate the album, but work together in various styles to produce a platter of chugging country/blues, phaser-heavy licks and the kind of rockabily that would’ve got your folks moving. Vocally there is a sense of narrated nostalgia, as each track explores another memory of which something was bought, sold or lost – never to return. Schmidt delivers a husky drawl of confident proclamations, blowing soft country smoke from early-morning cigarette breath.
‘Hurry Down’, the record’s lead-in track, kick-starts the next 40 minutes nicely, acting as a introduction that sings “I’m still holding that same song for you.” By the time ‘I’d Ask You To Stay’ comes around, the country shackles have well and truly been exchanged for shimmering guitars and high-octane surf rock. Suddenly the space in between tracks has opened up, allowing for explosive improvisation and increasing noise. Their confidence in marrying slices of sound from across the rock-blues spectrum comes as a real sonic treat.
‘Warm Front’ sees Schmidt letting go vocally, signalling the ghost of Grace Slick over a hazy dance of jangly guitars and rolling drums. It sits outside initial comparisons to some of the ‘In The Red’ crew: The Black Lips, Strange Boys, Tim Presley, who spin their own disorientated US rock but in different ways. Nods to other indie slackers, like Kevin Morby, can be seen as a springboard that leads The Highest Order to a more personal place.
If their debut was a work of cosmic country then the band have doubled down on the cosmic. ‘Taking Off’ walks us through a soft-footed instrumental that strips away all the album’s key components, dissolving all the phrase shifted psychedelic guitar duels in a puff of smoke. But ultimately, all the songs stay on as deep truths. The Highest Order are Still Holding and they’ve saved a rich slice for you.