In Tall Buildings is the project of multi-talented musician Erik Hall, of Wild Belle and Saturday Looks Good To Me, amongst other bands. Driver is his sophomore record under this moniker, following up the 2010 self-titled debut. Hall has come quite a long way since that initial release, fleshing out his folksy sound with electronic elements and focusing on creating a dichotomy between these two distinct sounds. The result is an exercise in precision and creativity, as Driver carves out its own space and flourishes there.
What works really well on this album is the constant battle between the balance of warm and cold sounds within the music. Aesthetically, Hall’s vocals are cold and distant, barely audible at points as he mutters his lyrics. In this way, they work almost as another instrument amidst the synthesizers, sheer percussion and elegant guitar riffs that are scattered in the mix, but as an instrument of juxtaposition. While his voice may be static, cool and calm, the music transitions between aligning with this chill and opposing it with growing warmth. The sound of the guitars play a large part in this—when acoustic they fill the emptiness of the track, and when electric, often the riffs are distorted warmly to give out that surfy heat of hotter days. There’s a soft blending of the elements here that feels like the sonic accompaniment to a visually smooth and subtle gradient of color.
On a track-to-track basis, this album doesn’t have a bad song, as each one feels artfully crafted, however, I have found highlights that are all over the map. First track, “Bawl Cry Wail,” is as sonically emotive as Hall’s voice gets, and the instrumentation is rustic and stripped. Later on you get the sleek and practically dance floor ready “Flare Gun,” with simmering synths and a catchy pop chorus that you’ll be singing along to in no time. Then you get “When You See Me Fall” which is a halfway point between these two songs, mixing the minimalist sound you got early on with the electronically dominated threads that have percolated in to the album.
Driver, with its sheer quiet melancholy pop veneer, feels like an excellent record for a transition from winter to spring; from finally shaking off the cold, shedding those coats, and emerging into the sunlight. There are some tracks that have definitely made my listening catalogue and perhaps you can make the delicate de-thawing process with In Tall Buildings as well.