Whether it is charm or simply mischief which fuels the songs of UK singer songwriter Alex Highton, probably both to be honest, it makes for a thoroughly engaging proposition and his new album one captivating treat. Nobody Knows Anything is a collection of intimate yet easily connectable songs for the imagination and emotions to greedily embrace. The successor to his folk seeded debut album Woodditton Wives Club, the Liverpool hailing Highton has pushed into more jazz and at times dare one say eccentric explorations within Nobody Knows Anything, resulting in a fascinating and almost devilish proposition.
Naming prime inspirations as Sufjan Steven, Here We Go Magic, and Joni Mitchell for his new Gare du Nord released album, Highton has called on an array of musical talent to explore his new songs, long time musical companions double-bass-player Jonny Bridgwood (Morrissey, Kathryn Williams, The Leisure Society) and drummer Howard Monk (Billy Mahonie, The Clientele) joined by the likes of Nancy Wallace (of The Memory Band and The Owl Service), Laura J Martin, and Robert Rotifer (of Rotifer) across the David Dobson produced release.
As soon as the melodic caress of opener You Don’t Own This Life cradles ears, there is open vivacity to the song, especially in the relish which Highton’s distinctive tones seem to have casting every syllable. The track entices even more potently as keys and sultry flames of trombone and clarinet join the narrative, ending on a jazz drenched shuffle which simply ignites ears and an anticipation for what is to come. It is an appetite given a flavoursome dose of fun through It Falls Together, a mischievous canter of melodic revelry and vocal adventure. Instantly there is a potent scent of 12 Stone Toddler to the imagination and revelry of the track whilst the discord spiced keys provide an early XTC flavouring, all very welcome and thrilling in the inventiveness of Highton’s verging on avant-garde creativity in the song. It is an early pinnacle of the album, joyful harmonies and tenacious revelry all adding their colour to the dance before the following mellow reflection of Panic takes over. In a synth cast celestial climate veined by blues kissed and seventies spiced melodies, the song floats and resonates over the senses. It swiftly awakens the imagination, its visual tones magnetic scenery to which electro and rhythmic enterprise add their creative fun.
Through both the gentle croon of Sunlight Burns Your Skin and She Had This Sister, Highton offers varied and enthralling melodic proposals, the first a simultaneously melancholic and vibrant weave of twilight lit jazz infused temptation and the second, a folky acoustically bred kiss on ears with a seductive swing and tangy groove to its smoulder. Though neither matches the romp of previous and the more experimentally infused songs for personal wants, each leaves a lingering hug and easy to accept invitation to soar their elegant landscapes again.
The rich hazy atmosphere and emotive enticement of Kills is next and again offers plenty to warrant a constant return to its warm seduction, the vocal union of Highton and Nancy Wallace pure magnetism, a lure matched by the melodic aesthetics and emotion of The Evil That Men Do, where this time the cello of Claire Hollocks and additional vocals of Bonnie Dobson add a riveting glamour to the song’s mournful countenance. The pair has ears and thoughts tightly embraced in their reflective beguiling, but soon have to give sway to the bubbly provocative pop of Fear and its pulsating magnetism.
I Only Asked You to Try and Somebody Must Know Something each add individual drama and forlorn intimacy to the expressive depth and uniqueness of the album before the instrumental majesty of the album’s title track takes ears and imagination on a provocative fall through emotive structures and melodically flirtatious adventure. It is a trigger for thoughts and feelings to play and invent before relaxing into the welcoming humid embrace of the outstanding Mephisto, another merger of folk and jazz filtered through a resourceful vat of discord mystique.
Nobody Knows Anything is completed by the glowing tempting of It’s, a bewitching end to a powerfully engaging release. Certainly some songs leap out over others for personal tastes but every moment upon Alex Highton’s album is an exciting opening into the adventure driven heart of its author and a tonic for ears and emotions.
Nobody Knows Anything is available now via Gare Du Nord @ http://alexhighton.bandcamp.com/album/nobody-knows-anything
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