“Sugar” by Highwind has been stuck in my head since I first heard it back in March. It’s a perfect pop rock earworm, and the best part about it is I’m never mad when it’s stuck in my head. I hum it to myself on and off and let it stay there. “You treat me like sugar, sugar, sugar…“
Needless to say, I was very excited to hear the band’s full length. The high of “Sugar” was great, but I needed more! And I’m happy to say that the album, Something Right In Between, is much more substantial than sugary fluff. It’s shimmering and coated with plenty of catchy hooks and saccharine synths, for sure, but it’s more like a hearty comfort food meal that’ll leave you satisfied and feeling nice and fuzzy.
The Jersey duo Highwind consists of frontman Chris Russo and drummer Dan Smith. Their sound is evocative of 2000s powerpop heavy-hitters like Forever the Sickest Kids, The Secret Handshake, or The Ready Set, but they’re far more mature-sounding than any of those groups. There’s an interesting mix of nostalgia and sophistication here – like the songs I listened to in middle school grew up and came back to me in a new, up-to-date form.
I wonder, am I a favorite, a flavor of the week, or something right in between? I have to know, is there room for me to breathe?
The album opens with the already mentioned lead single, “Sugar,” followed by the equally bouncy “Hung Up.” The song is full of yearning, describing a love that’s just out of reach. It features L. St. Germain as a guest vocalist, which adds to the track’s narrative by showing the other side of this unrequited love.
Then, the album dips into new territory, trading the danceable pop-rock for slower fare. “Fine For You” and “Search Without Sight” complement each other well in the tracklist, ramping down the energy to let the listener breathe a moment. “Fine For You” still works in crisp guitar solos between each verse to give the song an edge, while “Search Without Sight” is the most lowkey track here. It’s outfitted with acoustic guitars and intimate vocals, but has dashes of elegant pianos and building strings that keep the sound distinctly Highwind.
Later in the tracklist, we have “Jaded,” which features Charlie Mahoney of Flight Club on guest vocals. It’s very grounded in its lyricism – it confronts work burnout, caffeine addiction, and the struggle to hold ourselves together in this late-stage-capitalism hell world. Who can’t relate to all that, right? But though it’s a song about feeling jaded, stressed, and cynical, it doesn’t wallow in its angst. It’s more therapeutic than anything else, and the key message is less “everything sucks” and more “you’re not alone, here are two singers who know exactly how it feels.”
If there’s a criticism to be had here, it might be that it’s all a little TOO polished…but then along comes track six, “All’s End,” and we get a powerful vocal performance where Russo lets loose, sounding much rawer and pleading. It’s a welcome change of pace, and the track soars as a result of that vulnerability.
Overall, Something Right In Between is a strong debut that will resonate with any listener looking for a glint of hope right now. It’s a sugary album, sure, but it won’t rot your teeth and you can keep on coming back to it – and trust me, you’ll want to.
Highwind’s debut Something Right In Between is out now. Follow the band on Twitter, and stream the album wherever you get your music. Header image by Kris Khunachak.