New(ish) Releases: The High Water Marks

I don't know if this is my favorite album of 2023, but it's definitely one of the most entertaining. More importantly, it serves the important purpose of scratching that old-school Elephant 6 itch.

I can't overstate how big a part of my (musical) life the myriad bands in the loose, not always clearly defined Elephant 6 collective were for me in the mid-90s. The Apples In Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel were at the center of my universe for awhile, alongside Dressy Bessy, the Minders, Beulah, Elf Power, and so on. Sadly, most are long gone (though there have been a few albums from Elf Power, the Minders, and Dressy Bessy in recent years). 

But the High Water Marks keep that early vibe going. When Apples frontman Robert Schneider, the glue who held together many of the acts (and produced a lot of their early work), split from Apples drummer Hilarie Sidney, it was hard not to see it as the end of an era. Yet Sidney, who formed the High Water Marks a decade or so back with new partner Per Ole Bratset, has in some ways been freed by the change. Relegated to one or two songs per Apples record (invariably among their catchiest, most unabashedly bubblegum tracks), she can finally let loose. And a half dozen albums in, she's still got plenty of hooks to share. 

On Your Next Wolf, she and Bratset again divide the vocal duties, occasionally sharing some nice duets. I'm partial to Sidney's sugar-spun girl-next-door sweetness, not far afield from early Dressy Bessy but with more musical punch; though Bratset (who sounds a lot like Elf Power's frontman Andrew Rieger) is perfectly fine, and the songs they share are particularly strong.

The band keeps things simple--no complex psychedelia or experimental weirdness like that found among some in the E6 camp, just ridiculously catchy noise pop, fizzy little home-brewed pop songs like on those early cassettes Sidney used to help circulate for the E6 stable. Buy it on Bandcamp!