In 2020, it is surely tempting for any artist to eschew the full-length album format altogether. On streaming services, you can arguably gain more traction by releasing playlist-friendly singles than by dropping a batch of songs all at once.
For a while, it seemed as if that was the route Tall Heights was taking. After putting out a pair of LPs on the Sony Masterworks label—2016’s Neptune and 2018’s Pretty Colors for Your Actions—the newly independent Boston-spawned electro-folk duo spent the latter half of 2019 making singles. These include “Keeps Me Light”, released in October, and December’s “Under Your Skin”.
When the Straight rings up Tall Heights singer-guitarist Tim Harrington in Chicago, he reveals that he and singer-cellist Paul Wright are, in fact, working towards a new long-player after all. It’s in their artistic DNA, he suggests.
“In my opinion, every creative road leads back to making an album,” says Harrington, speaking on a day off between tour dates. “Like, I can’t not make albums. It’s what we do. It’s what we love. It’s the format of music that we feel is truly eternal, and that will last longer than ourselves. Certainly, the state of the music business is doing everything it can to kill the album, but I don’t think it will. I think at the end of the day people are still going to want their artists to make albums, and artists are still going to want to make albums.
“I can’t tell you exactly when that next album will drop; I can just tell you that it definitely will,” Harrington continues. “And I can also tell you that we’re creating a lot of music right now.”
That music, he indicates, will be a natural next step in the sonic evolution of Tall Heights. The pair began by busking on the streets of Boston, and their debut album, 2013’s Man of Stone, was an acoustic affair reflecting those beginnings; mostly spare layers of acoustic guitar and cello topped by Harrington and Wright’s shiver-inducingly glorious vocal harmonies.
By the time of Pretty Colors for Your Actions, the band’s sound had expanded into wide-spectrum indie pop, complete with drums, electric guitars, synthesizers, and—as on the aptly titled “House on Fire”—incendiary saxophone.
As for what comes next, Harrington reveals that he and Wright are recording at home with just the two of them instead of at a big, expensive studio accompanied by a cadre of other musicians. It’s a way, he says, of simplifying things, and of distilling Tall Heights down to its very essence.
“Every moment of time, artistically, is a little bit of a reaction to what you’ve done recently, I find, in that you never want to do the same thing twice and you always want to feel like you’re moving forward,” he says. “But you also never want to do something just to do it. You want it to feel artistically justified and motivating.”
Tall Heights is taking a pared-down approach to touring, as well. Rather than hit the road as a five-piece band, Harrington and Wright are playing as a trio with percussionist-vocalist Paul Dumas, who also happens to be their tour manager. It’s a freeing experience, he says, and one that lends itself to truly transcendent performances.
“I feel light as a feather,” Harrington says. “I feel like we can do whatever the hell we want on-stage, and it results in some really cool moments. I feel like every night we have a different experience with the crowd based on who’s in the room. And we play the songs, but something unique happens at each show.”
Tall Heights plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Sunday (February 23).