The High Water Marks – Songs About the Ocean

The High Water Marks
Songs About the Ocean

How do you react to an album that pummels you for 38 minutes with unrelenting power-pop, the hard punch of fuzzy guitars and high-pitched vocals knocking the wind out of your system? That’s how listening to the debut album by The High Water Marks feels. Hilarie Sidney and Per Ole Bratset of The Applies in Stereo and Palermo, respectively, have combined efforts to offer a girl-boy attack of frenetic indie pop on Songs About the Ocean. Some of the tracks have charm, but the volume knob should have been flicked downward in the recording studio, as the speedy songs suffer from a distasteful, ear-piercing sameness.

Songs About the Ocean opens with “Good I Feel Bad,” in which Sidney demonstrates some of her better vocals on the album, and Bratset contributes a fair amount of lines. The sound is nebulous and rushed, giving the sense that the song would be better if the duo slowed down just a bit. “Slowhand” has better singing in a narrative vein by Bratset, but the incessant beats and high tones again distract from an otherwise joyous track.

The negative attributes apply to most of the tracks on Songs About the Ocean, especially “Have Another Dream,” “Sixth of July,” and “Things to Do,” which is notably raucous. The pounding drums throughout the album drown out many of the melodic hooks, though Bratset’s slightly more patient vocal delivery adds a little life to some tunes like “Second Time.” The album’s catchiest and best track is also its longest, “High Water Marks.” More deliberate than each of the dozen songs that precede it, “High Water Marks” benefits from richer and sweeter vocals, less feedback, and the best balance of guitars and drums on Songs About the Ocean.

On an album of power-pop songs averaging two and a half minutes in length, it’s unfortunate that The High Water Marks dish out over a half hour of drowning, overwhelming noise before hitting their stride on the last track. For those who don’t mind loud monotony that will require frequent adjustments to the home stereo volume dial, Songs About the Ocean may be just the right aquatic adventure. Otherwise, stay out of the water.