Tall Heights formed in 2010, when guitarist Tim Harrington and cellist Paul Wright were performing mainly on the streets of Boston. That origin story helps account for the duo's minimal instrumentation. Harrington and Wright included only what they felt was essential to their pensive, classically-informed folk: guitar, cello and their two voices.
Flickering guitar lines and an underscoring of cello have dominated Tall Heights' sound ever since, and Wright and Harrington felt comfortable in their setup: just two guys playing folk music simple enough for the street. But more recently, they decided they wanted to push themselves in a new creative direction, even if it felt uncertain. So the duo used its latest record, Neptune — its first on Sony's Masterworks label— to explore new sonic terrain. Songs like "Infrared" experiment with lush, atmospheric synth tracks and steady, ominous percussion.
The new lyric video for "Infrared" evokes impermanence with its scenes of endless rolling landscapes, empty theater seats and grainy film strips. This is by no means an accident, as guitarist-vocalist Harrington tells NPR in an email. "I will be dead soon, and so will you," he says. "How obvious then that we'd pen stories of salvation, how sinister that we'd use them as weapons or commodities."
The duo's more modern sound, paired with the vintage feeling of the lyric video, creates a sense of unease. With scenes tinted black and white, neon green, sepia and other unnatural tones, the video doesn't seem rooted in reality — juxtaposed with the glimmering synth lines, it feels almost alien.
"Just because infrared light is beyond the capacity of the human eye doesn't make it invisible, and Persistent Productions' lyric video puts it out there on the visible spectrum," Harrington says. The video is a sensory treat in all aspects and is full of movement, whether it's in the form of a rolling film reel or a car speeding down an empty stretch of road. As the video fades, the line "a little heart with a beat" is repeated over and over; it closes the song with hope to hang on to.
Neptune is out now on Sony Music Masterworks.