Royal Headache – High (Stream)
by Steven Spoerl
Before jumping into the songs that have emerged over the past two days (& in subsequent posts, the material that’s surfaced over the past week), I’d like to start by issuing an apology to anyone that’s checked this space expecting new material recently (and, in a way, to the expectations I set for myself). I’m in the middle of navigating a move from the middle of Wisconsin to Brooklyn, so coverage will be more sporadic than usual. Once the move’s been established, though, the landscape will be a lot more vibrant than it has been in the past; everything will even out eventually. I’m not here to dwell on exposition, though, I’m here to share the things- on this specific occasion, songs from the past two days- that caught my attention.
The Hussy’s “Appleseeds” provided a blistering reintroduction to one of Wisconsin’s best bands while “Bill Murray” continued theweaselmartenfisher‘s quiet output of the kind of brilliant writing that makes him one of the state’s best songwriters. There were a handful of artists that produced sterling ambient-leaning tracks, including MAS YSA, XYLØ, Ancient Ocean, and Sitcom while Tokyo Police Club member Dave Monks and held down the mid-tempo terrain (with “The Rules” and “Slower Now“, respectively). Territory a bit more harsh was dominated by Infinity Girl, Dope Body, Buck Biloxi and the Fucks, and Empty Flowers. All of those songs, as always, are worth several listens, but this post’s feature belongs to the return of Royal Headache.
After unleashing one of the more impassioned debuts of recent memory, Royal Headache hit a snag. Their vocalist, Shogun, announced his intentions to quit the band. The rest of Royal Headache agreed under the stipulation that shogun stay to complete their second album. A tour’s forthcoming but at this point, the band’s living out an epilogue. If “High” is anything to go by, that epilogue may be more exhilarating than virtually all of the preceding content. I’ll admit, “Down the Lane” ranks among my all-time favorite songs (and Royal Headache will always have a valued place in my collection) but “High” doesn’t seem to be a static title; it’s a statement about the band’s creativity level while it extends its bittersweet death rattle.
“High” opens with an emphasis on a slightly cleaned-up production aesthetic, replete with swirling organs and a pulse-accelerating dynamic. Shogun launches off into what comes off as something approaching a mantra, providing an unavoidable clarity in regards to his feelings for an unnamed central character. As gritty as the verse winds up being, it’s when the chorus erupts into a full bloom that “High’ transcends genre limitations to become something genuinely breathtaking. Just as suddenly as it appears, the exquisite guitar work dissolves back into the pedal-to-the-floor hum of its verse sections. As it jumps back and forth, “High” establishes a surprisingly taut- and subtle- level of tension while simultaneously careening off into an otherworldly catharsis. It’s not just one of the band’s finest works; it’s one of the best songs of 2015.
Listen to “High” below and pre-order High from What’s Your Rupture? here.