Highland Kites – Let Me Run EP

Highland Kites Let Me Run EP Cover

There is nothing new about putting our struggles to music. After all, the blues genre alone held this as its main purpose. When it comes to inspiration, the darkest times can often jump start a writer’s career. Happy moments can also break through Writer’s Block, but it doesn’t always reach the audience. Sure, everyone has their times of joy, but there’s something about songs regarding darkness that touch the listeners’ hearts.

However, what happens when you write songs about the dark times, but put a positive spin on them? You get Highland Kites’ latest EP, “Let Me Run.”

Highland Kites is a mix of Indie Rock and Folk Pop, creating what the band calls “confessional anti-folk.” The duo formed in 2014, consisting of drummer Neil Briggs and Marissa Lamar on vox and keys. Much of the band’s songs and formation came from Lamar’s struggles, especially during her twenties. At that time, Lamar was suffering through a severe case of Lyme disease. She had to take increasing amounts of medication, and with friends drifting away, she felt like her life was becoming nothing but the illness. She wondered if there was really any chance for her to continuing living. She eventually recovered, and she believed it was because of music. Music made her refuse to give up on life, deeply desiring to share this feeling with others. She began writing songs, performed in LA, and teamed up with Briggs to create this intriguing group. After releasing their first EP, “So Vicious,” they were approached by producer Raymond Richards, who asked to work with them. Together they produced Highland Kites’ first full album, “All We Left Behind,” which was played on over seventy radio stations in 2015.

When it comes to her songwriting, Lamar prefers to take her darker experiences, such as the ones during her period with Lyme disease, and then turn those experiences into feelings of optimism and perseverance. She wants her listeners to feel what she went through, but know the relief and joy she now experiences. According to the band’s website, her “goal with music is to make people feel better even though most of her songs are themed around painful experiences.” The same feelings apply to Highland Kites’ “Let Me Run” EP, released on July 22.

Highland Kites Marissa

One thing I noticed about all her songs is the sound quality is similar to that of a live performance. No matter which of the five songs I listened to, I felt like I was at a show, minus the cheering audience. I suppose less digital editing could have been applied to these tracks, but I honestly enjoyed this aspect, if only because it made the content’s emotions more genuine. I was able to believe everything these songs spoke of truly dealt with something Lamar went through and conquered. With all the dubstep around these days, it’s nice to hear a band who can pull their weight live and in the studio.

The EP begins with a track called “Plastic Towns.” The song takes off with a constant guitar strumming reminiscent of a 1960’s beach song, although maybe not as positive. The song talks about how people should stop pining for perfect lives. People are always wishing they could have everything they ever dreamed for, but this is only a dream, devoid of life. Lamar sings beautifully, telling the listeners to “Stop pouring your heart out/You’re bleeding inside/All for plastic towns/And it was all for plastic lives.” Even if you think life would be perfect one way or another, you’re only killing yourself and taking time away from a flawed existence you might come to enjoy. It’s an interesting song because while some artists might say to shoot for your dreams, Lamar seems to say, “Get out of your mind—life’s going on without you. Use what you have to make your life enjoyable.” If I had to pick a song to open up with, I’d probably pick this one as well. It’s a great song as it not only depicts Lamar’s style beautifully, but it also shows her feelings of why you shouldn’t give up on living.

The second track is “Freckles,” which I found beautiful, but rather strange, especially when I heard Lamar sing, “Count every freckle on my skin.” This slower song’s instrumentals are lovely, accompanied by strings (Forget the cowbell, we need more strings!). However, it was hard to get into and understand just from the thought of counting freckles. If someone is covered in freckles, how could you ever hope to count them all? This feeling is the very intention Lamar had for this song. Taking the time to complete any task can be stressful, with some more tedious than others. Although, if this happens, Lamar says to slow down and start over, because there are many people who rush through things these days. We’re more about quantity than quality, and our impatience prevents us from enjoying the journey. I know I have trouble waiting, whether it’s in a line or wondering when I’ll get the chance to not be single on Valentine’s Day, but if I am not content with where I am now, my life and all the chances presented to me will quickly fade away.

Highland Kites Publicity Photo

The next two tracks, “This War Inside” and “Humiliated,” both deal with unpleasant situations. The former is a drum-heavy song focusing on indecision. Lamar sings about she creates turmoil within herself as she struggles to choose which direction she should go. If she simply made a choice, she would be free, but she sings, “I needed darkness to see the light.” Going through the negatives of each decision, she was able to see which choice was more positive and then steered herself in this direction.

As for the latter, Lamar deals with the monster known as humiliation. This song is incredible, if only for the desperation her smooth vocals exude with every syllable. She hates this feeling caused by an unnamed antagonist, calling it a “vampire” and a “parasite.” It drags her down and destroys her, but she has come to depart from it. She would rather be alone than continue being humiliated by this person. This is one of the EP’s darker songs, but what makes it and “The War Inside” so great is how Lamar overcomes in both. These songs involve struggles that seem impossible to deal with, but if you persevere, you will triumph.

Finally, we come to the song the EP was named after, “Let Me Run.” This track is not as dark as “Humiliated,” but it is somewhat depressing, yet hopeful simultaneously. When I first listened, I imagined a parent watching, raising, and working with a child as she grows. There are many times when this child struggles, broken down by life, and the parent works to repair the damage. However, the child decides not to give up, knowing that she will continue going through struggles, and she wishes to live through the good and bad times whenever they come.

“Let Me Run” is truly the anthem this EP proclaims. Even though life is full of pain and strife, nothing good comes out unless you choose to see it. Keep trying and keep living, so that when the end comes, you can say it was worthwhile.

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