Troy Hudson & The High Road
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a waiting room when Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” started playing. I was struck by the song’s condescending tone – Joel tells a woman that, in his opinion, she shouldn’t make any changes to her appearance or personality. Congratulations, nameless female! I had a similar reaction to “Steady Decline,” the opening track of Nobleboro jangle-pop quartet Troy Hudson & The High Road’s new EP. Here’s another guy slinging clichés about a woman and expecting us to take them seriously. Except this time, it’s about how mean she is. “I knew from the second I saw you / That I couldn’t trust you,” sings Hudson. The narrator somehow knew this woman was evil just by looking at her, but he got involved with her anyway. Why? She played a cruel trick on his manhood: “Those red lips, they won’t attract me / Well maybe just one kiss.” Atlantic Highway is mostly songs like this – blame-deflecting lyrics trapped in a strummy, late-’90s Sister Hazel purgatory. Hudson blames his ex for creating a “hurricane” in which “all this rain wasn’t caused by me.” On a song called “My Moment,” he celebrates how he’s finally coming to terms with the bridge that somebody else burned. All four of these songs should be called “My Moment,” because the pleasantries Atlantic Highway does offer – like the pretty backup vocals on “Made to Be Broken” – are overshadowed by all the personal axe-grinding. For a record about heartbreak, there’s little self-awareness to be found.
— Joe Sweeney