HighSchool – ‘Forever At Last’ EP review: quietly relatable songs with hidden depths

The Australian three-piece articulate the pain and frustration of isolation against a backdrop of introverted goth-pop

Over the past 18 months, Melbourne-based trio HighSchool have spent almost 300 days together in lockdown. ‘Forever At Last’, their first EP, excavates the vulnerability triggered by the claustrophobic circumstances they found themselves in: the injustice of missing out on life experiences, the ache of familial longing, the loss of time. It reacts to this life-altering and universal situation – and explores the contours of the emotional journey that this band, much like many of us, went on throughout that time.

Recorded entirely throughout the pandemic, across six gorgeous songs, HighSchool – comprising vocalist/songwriter Rory Trobbiani, his sister, keyboardist Lilli and bassist Luke Scott – explore the way that loneliness can open up into desolation. A soft, cloudy haze hangs over much of the production, and on the wistful ‘New York, Paris and London’, skittering rhythms and nervous jolts of guitar translate to a collective feeling of restlessness. “Tried so many times it’s hard living on the inside,” sings Rory through a cool, distant mumble. “I want to be young again.”

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On ‘De Facto’, Rory’s personal whirlwind of longing, lust, and romantic ambition takes on an almost celestial quality as twinkling keys buoy a low, Stone Roses-style bass rumble. A blurry synth line suggests the exhaustion of being kept awake by restless thoughts: “Wondering if you still love me/Night after night in my room”. His vocals feel intentionally detached, a way of illustrating the meaningless repetition of going through the motions through both lockdown and a faltering relationship.

There are times where HighSchool’s searching and fluid songs look to fill the band’s pent-up feelings of loneliness with focused songwriting. The enlivening, New Order-nodding pop rapture of ‘Frosting’ illuminates specific moments from the past (“The second I saw you dance/I was waiting on a love I never knew”) to uplift Rory out of the doldrums and into a different lifetime altogether. ‘Sirens’, meanwhile, attempts to find beauty in fleeting moments – and its spiralling guitar solos expand into a psychedelic soundscape to convey the song’s scattered moods.

HighSchool’s efforts to build tension, craft memorable, textured melodies and achieve catharsis makes their music refreshingly human and transparent – the band know that there are no shortcuts through the labyrinths of the pandemic’s aftermath. It would be a stretch to call the lyrical content of ‘Forever At Last’ joyful, but the atmosphere is undeniably dreamy and hopeful.

Details

highschool forever at last ep

  • Release date: November 1
  • Record label: Dalliance Recordings
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