Sound Advice: If It's Real by The Highest Order
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Sound Advice: If It’s Real by The Highest Order

A psychedelic-country act releases its debut album.


The Highest Order formed in early 2012 after its members found good fortune in an unfortunate situation: while alternative-country band One Hundred Dollars was on tour, drummer Dave Clarke was unable to participate in one leg. The band recruited Simone TB (Ell V Gore) as a replacement. She had such great chemistry with the group that vocalist and guitarist Simone Schmidt, vocalist and guitarist Paul Mortimer, and bassist Kyle Porter started a new project with with her.

Since then, The Highest Order has been making a name for itself by composing and performing spacey, psychedelic country that’s as strange at it is soulful. The group’s debut, If It’s Real, was just released by Toronto-based Idée Fixe Records on March 19. It’s remarkable for its unusual juxtaposition of pliant, plaintive country aesthetics with cosmic song structures and subject matter. It’s equal parts hard Western and Carl Sagan, trailing as much stardust as tobacco smoke.

While there are certain points of overlap between One Hundred Dollars and The Highest Order, there’s no doubt that The Highest Order is a distinct entity. It’s true that If It’s Real has a pleading, yearning quality that fans of One Hundred Dollars will recognize, and Simone Schmidt’s powerful, moving voice is again a keystone to the sound, but that’s where the similarities end.

In The Highest Order’s music, Mortimer’s guitar work comes to the fore, bringing with it a bit of psychedelia. The biggest difference is Simone TB’s drumming style, which doesn’t sound like country it all. It has more in common with noise rock and even garage punk. She brings a riotous, heavy, cacophonous quality that keeps the tone from becoming too smooth and chill, reminding the listener that amoung those serene stars and black holes are supernovae.

Listen to “The Crying Game” off If It’s Real by clicking on the sample above.