Hell or Highwater is taking audiences back to the recording sessions from its 2017 album Vista with a brand new EP.
The band released its debut EP Lost at Sonic Ranch May 1 through Spinefarm Records. The three-song record is essentially a collection of songs that did not make the final cut for Vista, and is an enjoyable second serving of music from that album. The strongest of the EP’s songs is its closer, ‘I’ll Be Waiting,’ which will be discussed shortly. The record’s opener, ‘Irrational’ will keep listeners engaged and entertained, too, and will be discussed a little later. ‘Believe In Us,’ the record’s second song, boasts its own positives and will also be discussed later. When it is considered along with the EP’s other songs, the whole of the 10-minute record proves itself to be one of this year’s best new EPs and hope that come hell or highwater, Hell or Highwater will have new music on the way soon.
Hell or Highwater’s new EP Lost at Sonic Ranch is an enjoyable surprise find. Released May 1 with little to not fanfare ahead of its release, it is short but still engaging and entertaining. That is proven in part through the record’s closer, ‘I’ll Be Waiting.’ The musical arrangement at the center of ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ is an immediate attention grabber with its guitars. The addition of the bass and front man Brand Sallers’ vocal delivery adds even more impact to the arrangement. That is because of the clear control that Sallers has over his voice in this song. Between the grittier moments and those in which he is actually singing, Sallers exhibits such talent throughout. The same applies for his band mates – Kyle Rosa (drums), Joey Bradford and Jon Hoover (both on guitar), and Nick Maldonado (bass/keyboards). The group’s collective talents makes the song a work that lends itself to certain works from Filter. It also makes the song a radio ready modern rock ballad that deserves to be on any active rock radio programmer’s playlist. The song’s musical arrangement is just one of its highlights. Its lyrical theme is something that will connect with listeners just as easily as its musical arrangement.
The song’s lyrical theme will connect so easily with listeners because it is something so familiar. It is one of those songs of devotion. Whether that means romantic devotion or just personal in general is up to interpretation, but it is there. Sallers sings in the song’s lead verse, “Another round/Another day/I count my lucky stars…’Til you and I are old and grey…we’re walking hand in hand/I’ll be waiting/’Till the sun stops burning out/’Till we’re six feet underground/I’ll be there/When the dust settles, I’ll stay/’Till only memories remain.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Another life/Another way/Something I could never understand/You can’t breath without the air/I couldn’t find the beauty in life without you here.” At this point, it becomes more obvious that this song is about a relationship. It comes across as a song about one person’s whole-hearted devotion to his/her partner. Again, this is a concept to which plenty of listeners can relate. Together with the song’s equally engaging and entertaining musical arrangement, the whole becomes a surefire hit for Hell or Highwater. It is just one of the record’s notable works. The EP’s opener, ‘Irrational’ is notable because it will appeal in the same yet different fashion as ‘I’ll Be Waiting.’
‘Irrational’ opens with a strong chorus that is accompanied by Maldonado’s keyboard work. The chorus effect used in the song’s opening bars add to its instant grip. That approach gives way soon after to a semi-brooding sound from the band. The group’s work makes for so many “singable” moments for audiences, too, making the song even more worthy of applause.
The arrangement that forms the foundation of ‘Irrational’ does an impressive job of helping translate the emotion in the song’s lyrical content. The song’s lyrical content presents a story that is the polar opposite of that presented in ‘I’ll Be Waiting.’ This song’s story seems to be one about two people who are at a difficult point in their relationship. That is made clear right from the song’s opening bars, with Saller singing, “Don’t be so irrational/You lost control/You’re always so irrational/But you don’t even think so/So don’t be so irrational/Don’t be so/Is it the norm to fall to pieces/You’re like a loaded gun/Accepting flaws is an afterthought/Where nothing’s ever your fault at all/You never gave us less than hell/I hope your…treat you well/Don’t be so irrational/You lost control/You’re always so irrational/But you don’t even think so/So don’t be so irrational/Don’t be so.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Is it the norm to be miserable/Do you find it hard/It wasn’t that we didn’t expect it/Just didn’t know you’d live so long/You never gave us less than hell/I hope your…treat you well/Don’t be so irrational.” He continues in similar fashion in the song’s third and final verse, noting, “We won’t follow in your footsteps” before returning to the song’s chorus again. It’s a strong statement, but delivered in a way that is neither too light nor too heavy. It does translate well both lyrically and musically. To that end, it proves its own worth, voicing the feelings that so many people feel in difficult relationships with those narcissistic types of individuals who refuse to accept any responsibility for anything. Together with ‘I’ll Be Waiting,’ the two songs give even more depth to this record, and in turn even more engagement and entertainment.
While ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ and ‘Irrational’ both clearly show their own importance to the whole of Lost at Sonic Ranch, there is still one more song featured in the EP worth noting. ‘Believe In Us’ is noteworthy in its own right to the EP’s overall presentation. The musical arrangement at the center of ‘Believe in Us’ is a steady, mid-tempo work that is founded in its bass and drums. The guitars build on that foundation, giving the song even more mainstream appeal with its catchy melodies and choruses. The arrangement does an admirable job of translating the song’s lyrical content.
The song’s lyrical theme is another matter of a personal relationship, this time seemingly focusing on someone trying to remain positive about the chances of finding love. This is inferred as Saller sings in the song’s lead verse, “Pacing back and forth/Trying to reach what I’ve been chasing for so long/I’m lost/I’ve been used and worn/Abused and broken…I believe in love/It’s deep in my heart beating/It’s deep in my lungs, breathing.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Make my way into/great wide open/Found the place where I belong/I’m lost/I don’t believe your luck/I just believe in trusting all that I have done so far.” He adds in the refrain of the song’s chorus, “Whether we decided if the time is right/Let’s follow our hearts until the end/I believe in love/Living life in the wake of eternity/I still believe/I still believe/That if we try…it’d still be worth it to me/I still believe.” Some of the lyrics are difficult to decipher without a lyric sheet to reference, but the majority of the lyrics are easy to understand. Enough, as a matter of fact, that it is clear the song is focusing on someone trying to maintain a positive attitude about finding that happiness and that it is out there despite what seems like overwhelming odds. It’s another very familiar lyrical theme that will connect so easily to listeners. Together with a musical arrangement that lends itself to comparisons to works from Shinedown and Finger Eleven, the song proves to be just as strong as its counterparts in this EP. When it is considered with the EP’s other two songs, the record in whole proves to be a solid follow-up to Vista, even coming three years after that album’s release, and a work that is deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new EPs.
Hell or Highwater’s new EP Lost at Sonic Ranch is a strong new offering from the band. It is a work that will definitely appease anyone who has waited for new music from the band since the release of its 2017 album Vista. That is evidenced in the musical arrangements that are immediately radio ready for any mainstream active rock radio station. The songs’ lyrical themes are just as capable of connecting with listeners as the songs’ musical content. All things considered, they make the EP a work that any fan of Hell or Highwater will enjoy and that is a great new find among this year’s field of new EPs. More information on Lost at Sonic Ranch is available online along with all of the band’s latest news at:
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