Highlander- “Good Numbers”

“Good Numbers is a pleasant snapshot of an indie band that never forsakes memorable melodies for anything ‘cooler. . .'” -GT

Grafton Tanner

out of 10

Good Numbers
August 14, 2013
Boom! Done Records

Highlander is a four-piece indie pop band from Atlanta, GA that describes their music as sounding “like you, hanging out with your friends.” It’s a rather meaningless description until you take a listen to their latest EP, Good Numbers. On it, songwriter and Highlander leader Joe Oliver sings about love and life as a young person in Atlanta. Previous Highlander efforts have mainly included Oliver solo with an array of preset synths and beats. That “Casio tone” indie electro feeling is still present on Good Numbers, but now a fuller, heavier vibe complements Oliver’s craftsmanship thanks to his assembled band. Most of what anyone will find here is pretty standard indie fare, but when the songs make room for Oliver’s poppy melodic vocal lines on Good Numbers, the result is a small record of indie goodness that is solely made for good times.

Oliver has an incredible knack for melody, and his hooks are well-groomed and very memorable. Opener “Noise/Information” establishes Highlander as a band specializing in solid instrumentation and clean grooves. Sure, the lyrics are bottom-of-the-barrel, but it’s hard to notice when Oliver and company kick into a second upbeat verse around the 1:40 mark. Disregarding the slight tempo mistakes in the rhythm section at the beginning, “Blankets” is the highlight of the EP. The groove and vocal melody resemble Merchandise circa Children of Desire, minus the dense layer of digital reverb. Also like Merchandise, Highlander is not afraid to include a slick New Wave guitar solo in any of their songs, and the most memorable occurs on “Digitally Controlled Oscillator,” a post-punk tune that would not have been out of place in an episode of Miami Vice.

Things start to slide into boredom with the EP’s dual closers, “Maquina Pt. 1” and “Maquina Pt. 2.” “Pt. 1” lacks the exciting hooks of the previous tracks and stretches its synth introduction for far too long, and “Pt. 2” is utterly pointless, a throwaway track tacked on to an otherwise enjoyable EP.

Highlander take many cues from 1980s pop/rock, and their songs walk the line between past and present 80s-tinged rock bands. Good Numbers is a pleasant snapshot of an indie band that never forsakes memorable melodies for anything “cooler,” yet they are not without an edge of classic rock. This mix of indie pop and streamlined rock makes for a solid full-band effort by a project that had been thirsting to escape the confines of the laptop.

-Grafton Tanner, October 14, 2013