In terms of indelible memories, the first time I heard The High Violets is something along the lines of a mental tattoo. The Laurelhurst Theater is one of those delicious Portland institutions; a second run movie theater that serves pizza and beer. I was standing in line for the latter two when some wonderful music caught my ear. When my turn came, I asked the bartender what he was playing.
“It’s The High Violets,” he grinned. They’re here now, so I thought it would be good to play them.”
Once I sat down in the theater, I looked around and noticed a guy with long, super sharp sideburns next to an equally distinct, attractive woman. That had to be them, I thought. They were just… cooler than anybody else there. A couple of weeks later I caught the band at Berbati’s Pan and found that I’d been exactly right. They’ve been my favorite Portland band ever since and I almost never miss a show. Over the next dozen years since we watched The Warriors together (you were wondering about the movie, weren’t you?), I've gotten waves from them as I got on the train in a High Violets tee shirt, crossed paths with them at parties, seen Clint Sargent playing with Starry Saints, run into drummer Luke Strahota at the bike shop—then accidentally caught a performance with his riotously fun Satin Chaps at my neighborhood street fair. Like many of their fans, I stayed in touch and jumped like a fish to every rumor of a new album until finally, after six years, The High Violets have delivered Heroes and Halos. Call it shoegazer or dream pop (Heroes and Halos is more of the latter), The High Violets’ music is beautiful. It’s good to have them back.
Despite all the anticipation—and Facebook sharing—I pointedly avoided any singles or prerelease videos, instead waiting patiently for my special edition LP to arrive. What I did do was play the other albums in anticipation--44 Down, To Where You Are, Satellite Remixes and Cinéma, in order. Easy, since I’ve never tired of them and they still get played a lot. Unfortunately, my lavishly beautiful ultra clear with blue haze vinyl limited edition, preordered record... arrived late. I was a cranky all weekend as I watched other fan posts and pictures. But all that was forgiven once I dropped the needle on my Linn Sondek.
The wine of the night turned out to be a bottle of properly lauded and scandalously underpriced Cave de Lugny "Les Pierres Blanches" 2012 Macon-Village. Jai and I caught a great deal when they were making room for the next vintage, and enjoyed it all last summer. We loved the Granny Smith apple flavors, nice pears underneath that, with a hint of butterscotch on the finish. I’d stashed a few bottles under the stairs on a whim, to see how it aged. (This is how geeks learn about stuff like “aging.”) And now I found a quenching sensuality in the wine that suited listening the record just fine. I knew this wine well and the familiarity allowed me to focus on the music, but engaged me between tracks, for a perfect Vine+Vinyl moment.
After six years, the band’s gotten a few things worked out, but I was intrigued when Kaitlyn ni Donovan posted pictures of all the notebooks full of lyrics that covered that time span. There’s as much sweat in this record as there is just setting it down and walking away. End of the day, it was worth the wait—especially since now I could read the lyrics off a real album cover.* I love this album as a whole—which is perhaps unusual when listening to two sessions as an LP. That said, I’ll say I liked side two better, “Comfort in Light” is my favorite song, because I’ve always loved Clint Sargent’s guitar work. A musician friend once told me that the whole point of rock and roll was to be bigger than life, and that’s what Clint does with an overdriven Telecaster. Kaitlyn ni Donovan’s voice is clear as a crystal bell and has never sounded better. Just like the first track of the record implies, I love everything about Heroes and Halos. Every single note.
Winding down the night after the fourth play, there’s a peculiar moment of reflection: I’ve still got one more bottle of a pretty good white Burgundy. After I shut down the turntable for the night, I went downstairs and tucked it away in the back, under the stairs in the Harry Potter closet. I want to save it for the next High Violets album.