The Scandi-American Elephant 6ers turn out another sparkling set of fuzzy, catchy indie pop
For a while, it seemed like The High Water Marks might become a footnote in the story of the Elephant 6 collective. While Neutral Milk Hotel became celebrated enough for 10.0 reviews from Pitchfork and namedrops on Parks & Recreation and Apples In Stereo had famous hobbit fans, the US-Norwegian band had fallen quiet in 2012 after just three albums.
That’s not the oddest thing for a collective where every line-up seems to primarily be about whoever was around at the time, but it seemed a significant loss nonetheless. The High Water Marks – whose Hilarie Sidney was one of the founders of Elephant 6 – seemed perpetually on the verge of something, less overtly psychedelic than their counterparts and more inclined towards unadulterated pop brilliance.
When The High Water Marks ended their protracted silence in style back in 2020, they did so with the album they’d always suggested at, the utterly flawless Ecstasy Rhymes. That record unleashed a torrent of fuzzy, poppy goodness from Sidney and Per Ole Bratset; the equally wonderful – if slightly more psychedelic – Proclaimer Of Things came hot on its heels. Sixteen months later, here comes Your Next Wolf.
Now the band has three albums on each side of their hiatus, it feels reasonable to consider their second chapter an overwhelming success. Not since Superchunk has a band gone away and come back so invigorated and energised. There’s no treading water or grasping for past glories, The High Water Marks are back because they’re too good to stay gone and Your Next Wolf might be the… ahem… high water mark of their return.
At their very best, The High Water Marks recall a tougher-edged Apples In Stereo. Even beyond the Hilarie Sidney connection, the two bands share a sense of melody that appears to tumble out so easily. Where they differ is how they approach those melodies; The High Water Marks coat them in fuzz and get straight to the point. Songs like ‘American Candy’, ‘China Aster’ and ‘Dream Some More’ are so fuzzy and joyful, you could imagine 90s Ash or Teenage Fanclub turning green with envy.
Since their 2004 debut, The High Water Marks haven’t messed with their formula much. The production is a little more careful, the tempos a little more varied (the wistful ‘Just An Ordinary Day’ is a highlight), but at its core, Your Next Wolf is all about huge hooks and the charming vocal trade-offs between Sidney and Bratset. You get the sense that they could do this for another 20 years and never run out of ideas.