Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A view from Dizzy Heights

Neil Finn stands on the precipice, peering through sun-drenched clouds with a mix of fear and curiosity at the view of ominous waters below. Serving as both a metaphor and a description of the cover on Finn’s 3rd solo release, Dizzy Heights, this surreal scene captures the essence of high risk: actions that push us to the brink of what we know and beckon us to leap into the unknown. This is a risk that this New Zealand master songwriter chooses willingly, and the risk pays off here with an album that delivers on multiple levels. ‘Dive Bomber’, the first official release from Finn’s new album, reminds us that when poised on the precipice “there’s only one way down”, yet in this song and throughout the record, Finn hovers gracefully between a dreamlike realm and all that is real and tangible.

On Dizzy Heights, Finn pushes the bounds of expression on his most personal album to date. His inspiring and beautifully crafted lyrics reveal the full spectrum of intimacy by exploring a range of feelings, including lust (‘Dizzy Heights’), euphoria mixed with apprehension (‘Dive Bomber’), giddiness (‘Pony Ride’), loss (‘In my Blood’), longing (‘White Lies and Alibis’), admiration (‘Strange Friends’), compassion (‘Recluse’), and nostalgia (‘Lights of New York’).  With a voice that resonates with sincerity, Finn moves us from heady romance through deep commitment. Throughout Dizzy Heights, Finn muses on love while making songs that seem to be written with only you in mind.

Sonic risks abound in this collaborative production between Finn and producer Dave Fridmann of Tarbox Studios. Fridmann, known for his work with Flaming Lips, OK Go, Tame Impala, and Mercury Rev creates detailed sonic layers enhanced by analog alchemy. The Finn/Fridmann collaboration on Dizzy Heights is unique for creating surreal aural soundscapes built upon beautifully crafted songs replete with soaring melodies, dynamic chord changes and solid rhythm. As a result, these songs are as danceable as they are listenable. And like all great psychedelic pop, the cinematic scope of Dizzy Heights promises to take you down the rabbit hole for wondrous years to come.

Have a listen for free here:
Visit Neil Finn's website: for up-to-date tour info. and more

... and my track-by-track first impressions:

Love the samba feel of Better Than TV

Pony Ride is so fresh! Funky, sweet, danceable, and it ROCKS, too!

I love the long intro to White Lies... chorus is dark (a bit scary). Layers upon layers of sonic imprint - like subconscious made audible

Neil sounds like early Bowie in Your Next Move

Recluse. Oh, yes, this is well done! This has a sense of levity that I didn't expect. Backing vocals are perfect (like a Greek chorus)...... love the cacophonous outro... Sounds like Abbey Road

Strangest Friends has a lot going on (wispy background vocals, rock god guitar, driving beat). I get a bit lost in it all

In My Blood has a faster tempo than live versions. This one and Pony Ride are my bets for top US hits

The ambient sound in Lights of NY takes this "song without a beat" to another realm. Endearing and melancholy. A lullaby.

... and an earlier review of Dive Bomber: Melancholy melody. Mesmerizing delivery. Mythical storyline about a life-threatening encounter between two beings leaves lots of room for interpretation. All set against a backdrop of lush soundscape of cinematic proportions. This (and more) from a man known for his skill in crafting poetic verse and breathtaking melodies in songs that seem like they were written with you in mind.