High Places: Original Colors (Thrill Jockey) 

The most fascinating thing about Nirvana's success was the friction between Kurt Cobain's anti-macho spirit and how the band's sound helped catalyze the testosterone-ridden mode of alternative music in the '90s.

The previous decade had seen a host of sissies and feyboys occupy the zeitgeist—from Boy George to Morrissey; from the boys in Duran Duran to that guy Michael Stipe's band. But the era that Cobain ushered in felt like a cultural "straightening." Suddenly, Soundgarden, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alice in Chains were occupying the space where more-complicated, ambiguous expressions of masculinity and selfhood had once bloomed.

So, thank God, grunge died; the music industry imploded; and Daft Punk happened. The '00s is when "club" music (to be crude about it) really transcended the cultural margins (where it had been lingering since the days of disco) and proliferated, becoming an indelible part of the current generation's cultural discourse. The music of today's college students is queerer than it ever was, even if they don't realize it.

Which brings us all the way around to High Places' brand of polyrhythmic, minimalist dance music, which really is the abiding sound of Now. While Original Colors lacks imagination, the band can be forgiven due to its crystalline distillation of a cultural mood. It's a miracle that the Mary Pearsons of the world may (figuratively) stand atop mountains of remaindered copies of Chris Cornell's Scream and sing.

More by Sean Bottai


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