If rock lives on the ideal and folk upon the real, She, in the Haze lives on the grandiose.
Artist: She, in the Haze
Album: Mama said
Here at Master Saiche Indie we like to write about indie music without having to take a stand on what “indie” means, but She, in the Haze make music that calls for a little bit of clarity. In its simplest form, that means we’ll review just about anything we like so long as the back of the cd (back of the MP3?) doesn’t say Warner or Sony. Not that we dislike that music, it’s just that those artists have got their own promotional machines.
She, in the Haze strains our definition only in the sense that after the first few notes, I was shocked not to see one of those conglomerate’s names at the bottom of the Spotify feed. To the contrary, by all indications Mama said is self released. If that’s true, the band has mastered the art of making a million yen sound like a million bucks. It’s not just that the production sounds flash, the songwriting is so full of Swedish-songwriter hooks you could catch fish with the CD.
But we like it, we presume it’s indie, so here we are.
If there’s one thing that will keep She, in the haze from being world beating chart toppers, it’s being twenty years late. Let’s take a trip back in time… In 1997-98 alternative rock had gone stale. Gloomy guitar bands were ubiquitous, and getting more dull by the day. The more ambitious groups were willing to try anything to freshen things up. Pre-97, bands had been reaching back and spiffing up the sounds of industrial music, but at the end of the day, it was only a slight tweak.
…But then something new arrived. The Smashing Pumpkins produced one last brilliant single with “Adore”. Filter struck gold by adding vocals and guitars to The Crystal Method’s “Trip Like I Do”. Garbage released their best album with Version 2.0. What did they have in common? Electronica.
For those involved in the scene or who followed British dance music, such a bland and over generalized term as “Electronica” was practically insulting. But for the the alternative rock hangers-on, it was thrilling. The idea of synthesized beats and a kitchen-sink worth of far out sounds melded to guitar pop was just the right injection of adrenaline for radio rock. But a year or so later, the audience’s thirst for something “new” caused the electronica influences to fade away just in time for hip-hop influences to rise in the justifiably reviled genre of nü-metal.
She, In the Haze bottle the excitement of 97-98 by incorporating those same elements. In some ways, I feel like She, in the Haze would have done a world tour with Garbage if Mama said had been put out at the right time. For sure, the group is a guitar band writing big grey anthems of longing that will have you pumping your fist and maybe shedding a tear, but they also crank the synths louder than the guitars, overwhelm the tracks with bass, and use beats that sound synthesized.
An album this slickly produced and tightly written makes choosing standout tracks difficult. Instead we’ll focus on two contrasting tracks. “Stars” kicks off the album in rocking fashion. It starts with a whispered voice over an organ. Then the band kicks in with the guitars pushed into the back of the mix. Then when the chorus hits we’ve got overdriven synths and we’re in pop heaven. It’s big, it’s huge, and it’s fun. It’s been so long since rock band music has aspired to be pop music that it is easy to forget how glorious it can be when bands try to sound as big as U2 instead of as subtle as Real Estate.
“Behind” takes the band in a different direction. On the track, the band transforms into something totally synthesized, totally grimy. Yes, this is still music polished within an inch of its life, but it has a grand, theatrical time playing at being dark. The sampled guitar riff acts like a drone that has gotten out of hand. But, even when darkened up, the band sounds absolutely huge thanks to the echoed drums and distorted bass. This is not a difficult kind of dark, of course, She, in the Haze are still able to imbue the song with solid hooks and a huge chorus.
Overall, She, in the Haze is the medicine you need whether your ailment is late 90’s fever or you suffer from a life-threatening deficiency in grandeur.