Review – “Without You, In Rockland” – High Tor

reviewed by Laura Stanley

High Tor is my favourite Toronto emo band that I know nothing about. I found their Facebook page at one point but it has since disappeared. The only online presence that is left is their Bandcamp page and the various Twitter exchanges between Luca Capone and I about how great High Tor Is.

On their Bandcamp, High Tor is characterized as “Anti-folk from the west end of Toronto.” Their songs are lo-fi acoustic affairs with minimal accompanying instrumentation and High Tor sings in a way that made me re-read this article about pop-punk accents. They also include as many details as possible so you know exactly how hurt they are. And they are hurt. Without You, In Rockland is a vivid portrayal of someone wanting to forget and heal. But it’s difficult because the person they are trying to forget keeps showing up atop of the cranes in Scarborough and in the words of Allen Ginsberg and Flannery O’Connor.

What is particularly cutting is the volume of unanswered questions in this release. In the title track, the most tender of the bunch, High Tor asks, amongst other questions, “how could I have better stayed to fill your purpose?” In “New Place Corporation,” one of their questions is, “How can hands unseen still offer any guidance?” On the standout track “The Plutocrat,” as High Tor’s plucked guitar tumbles and glistens like loonies hot off the press at the Canadian Mint, they get caught in the past and make a moment marred with pain a happy memory: “And remember when my teeth caught on the ring inside your lip? We laughed through tired eyes as both of our mouths bled.”

By the closing track “Destination Titles,” High Tor pull themselves out of misery. They look in the mirror, shake their head and say:  “Inexplicably, I’ve lost track of priorities. And if I know that this won’t be as permanent as it seems, why have I let you define me?” They put on their boots and coat and hat (it’s cold but spring will arrive soon) and vow to start a new chapter.

Without You, In Rockland is High Tor’s sixth and final release. May your streetcar ride into the western sun be a smooth one, High Tor. RIP.

Top Track: “The Plutocrat”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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