Brenda Malvini has this classic, smokey side that make her vocals mystic and mysterious; not entirely unlike those of Jeremy Faulkner, whose similarly unique styling made Ah Holly Fam’ly one of last year’s best releases. North Highlands hail from Brooklyn, rather than a progressive rural Idaho town bordering Washington. Yet listening to songs off their debut EP, Sugar Lips, one gets the impression that their sound wouldn’t be out of place amidst wheat fields and century-old farmhouses.
Malvini’s masterful vocal styling is joined by expert instrumentation. Mike Barron provides hints of jangle amidst eclectic folk-pop guitar, and Jasper Berg’s intense percussion further draws on the emotion Brenda and Mike pump into the vocals and guitar. Rounding out the band are Andy Kasperbauer on bass and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Stewart, who assists the band in creating a unique sound by adding mandolin and violin accompaniment.
“Collar Bones” has a laid-back feel that capitalizes on Malvini’s songwriting abilities. Title track “Sugar Lips” stands out with hints of an oriental instrumental influence that dominates the verse, giving the song an entirely unique sound for folk-pop. North Highlands shows insurmountable promise; with a debut EP as strong as Sugar Lips, I know I’m not the only one clambering at their door to hear more.
Above Photo by Lena Hawkins.