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  • Andy Mockbee

Review: "Higher" - Cole Redding

The thrill of pop music is the depth to which artists twist, bend, and enliven the formula without removing the immediacy and universal appeal. Like a puzzle-box of references, genres, and ideas, pop has the power to unfold as you listen closer. On his third single, Cole Redding presents music that is all this and more: immediate and accessible, daring and intricate. "Higher" goes down so smooth you'd almost miss the clever fusions of genre. Redding's blissful drawl and universal imagery feel playfully rooted in Classical Folk and Americana. Listen to the way he squeezes the vowels from the chorus, like a lemon into iced tea. How about the flavor of Ska music in its off-beat guitar rhythm? It's subtle, but imperative to the sense of levity. But this is no bluegrass ballad and it's not reggae fusion either: "Higher" positions pop songwriting in the foreground. Lush vocal layers, airy synths, and steady drums appeal to contemporary pop in a way that still feels compatible with a varied blend of genre.

Singing of living blissfully, Redding takes a lyrical approach that is both conversational and sensory. "Hey, aren't you tired of the pressure, baby?" He opens the song with, as though the question had just popped into his head. In tradition with some of pop music's most connective and sensitive songwriters, this "you" remains vague to keep a universal interpretation. Aren't you tired? Elsewhere, the indie artist paints more with the sounds and immediate images of words. "Everybody's higher / Life's a little lighter," he croons on the chorus. The blank spaces fill in with sunset oranges and pinks; a warm smile fills the air.

Being his first year in the pop scene, Cole Redding has already shattered expectations with each subsequent release. Beginning with May's "Dying 4 Love," Redding eschewed artistic growing pains with a fully-formed, pop vision. The indie popster followed up in August with "LA's Not Home" (which you can read our coverage of here). Capping off the year, "Higher" proves there's no end in sight to Redding's exciting pop material. His music articulates lifelong themes of self-acceptance, freedom of expression, and finding joy in life. "You have to know the dark to appreciate the light," he remarks on his latest single. Contextualized by a lifetime struggling with his sexuality, "Higher" is Redding's chance to bask in the sunlight.

Written By Andy M.

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