The Greatest View. Photo: Andrew Hemingway
Sometimes I hear music so intriguing that it’s hard to put what I’m hearing into words. Through writing a weekly column on what’s happening around town, I sometimes get to hear bands that either don’t play very often or bands that haven’t gotten the right amount of push to get as much attention as others. It doesn’t happen much, but sometimes I stumble upon a true gem, which is what I found with Houston’s The Greatest View. As a two-piece that utilizes electronics and acoustic instrumentation, they make a sound that’s catchy and beautiful, but also hard to place a finger on what genre you’d place them in. On their most recent album, this year’s She Was Sarcastic To Begin With, they blur the lines between genres while offering up one of the most intriguing sounds you’ll hear in a good while. No matter what you’d call it, be it indie pop or electro folk, it’s good above all else, which really doesn’t need a genre in the end.
Opening with the lo-fi recorded little dittie “Tape Duet,” you should realize that this won’t be your typical pop record. While the song is under one minute long, it definitely leads into the push-pull of the album between high end production and lo-fi indie goodness. This is followed by the breath lead “Made The Bed.” There’s something about David Upp’s vocals that almost melt your heart as they draw you in. The beat of the breaths is an intriguing move while synths play underneath and his vocals grab your attention to that of a mix that’s like if David Gray and Manic Street Preachers. The third track brings back that lo-fi aesthetic with the narrative “First Kiss,” before the album heads back into song mode on “Seven Minutes In Heaven.” The song, which has these pretty little moments that feel like orchestral pop that teeters on ballad, features a pace that sets a different tone. The backing vocals met with doubled vocals atop adds a depth you don’t hear often from Houston acts, and the song itself is super catchy. The chorus is one you won’t be able to shake even after just one listen. Upp is definitely doing his own thing here and it certainly works.
The album continues with the lo-fi intrigue of “In Reverse,” which is almost like a narrative intro before the song “Havering,” that features a more ominous tone. The darkness of the song showcases a different side of the duo that’s as interesting as it is beautiful. Two tracks later, the largest standout of the album, “Paris,” comes in and should make anyone who hears it a fan. The mix of Upp’s vocals and harpsichord mixed with piano is such a jam that you wonder how it’s not being offered up on a larger label. Though the song is essentially orchestral pop, it could be one of the most intriguing songs you’ll hear this year. The lyrical content here is deep and full of story, yet that doesn’t mean that Upp would trade that without a hook, as it’s extremely endearing and full of depth. There are moments that the track reminded me of a mix of Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, feeling like a pop gem with plenty behind it. Two tracks later the meandering opening of “All That You Owe” offers up another song that’s hard to instantly love. The most stripped song of the album, the way in which the vocals are at the front of the mix almost overblown while the instrumentation is on a hair below them, creates a sound that’s immediate but not without labor and intent. I was reminded of the early solo works from Jeremy Enigk in how the vocals were presented, yet it didn’t feel lifted by any means.
The album closes off with the piano-based track “Be Careful,” where you should find yourself enjoying the dance between vocals, piano, and violin. The song feels like that of a confessional more than anything else, but is also a rightful closer to this storied release. I wouldn’t expect this album to end any other way, and it honestly made me want to relive the experience of the record again.
The Greatest View is definitely offering up an experience with this release. With the narrative of little parsed stories before each track, it feels closer to a tale told between two lovers, and more theatrical than that of pretty much everything else out there today. You can stream the album at all of the usual platforms, or grab your own copy Thursday July 6 when the duo performs upstairs at White Oak Music Hall. The all ages show with doors at 8 pm will also feature performances from Motion Hotel, Anchor North, and Two Thirds, and it’s free for adults or $5 for those under 21.
Local Love: The Greatest View This was reposted for my personal reading use