NPR logo Great Northern and the 'Height' of Portent

Great Northern and the 'Height' of Portent

Low Is a Height

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Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Low Is a Height"
  • Artist: Great Northern
  • CD: Trading Twilight for Daylight
  • Genre: Pop

Great Northern's members know how to use vocal effects for maximum emotional impact. hide caption

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It's easy to dismiss pop bands that slather on vocal effects, but relying on tricksy production doesn't have to lessen music's impact or qualify as "cheating." A great-sounding pop song is a great-sounding pop song, and Great Northern's "Low Is a Height" feels that much dreamier and sweeter for its layered vocals, skittering beats and hazy electronic washes.

Fans of Imogen Heap know how much power can be derived from artificially processed vocals, and "Low Is a Height" carries on in her tradition, as singer Rachel Stolte lets her voice swoop and swoon over arrangements that conjure memories of the 4AD label's greatest hits.

Even at five and a half minutes, "Low Is a Height" doesn't break a ton of lyrical ground: Instead, it's content to use vaguely portentous phrases — "Drink to the sun / We write to millions / You kill everyone around you" — to help pile on the atmosphere. It's an awfully effective strategy, as "Low Is a Height" functions as both a dreamy pop epic and the musical embodiment of a mood that's somehow both sunny and oppressive.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Trading Twilight for Daylight
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