Single Review: High Hazels – Misbehave

By on Tuesday, 5th August 2014 at 12:00 pm

Despite being over a month from its official release, the new single from Sheffield up-and-comers High Hazels, titled ‘Misbehave’, has already received its first mainstream radio spins. The track earned airplay on Huw Stephens’ BBC Radio 1 show last week after having been picked up by BBC 6music’s Steve Lamacq the week prior. While High Hazels garnered praise for their previous releases, the ‘In the Half Light’ EP (reviewed here by Mary) and especially single ‘Hearts Are Breaking’, it could be ‘Misbehave’ that really makes their mark leading up to their debut LP.

The beauty in High Hazels’ music up to this point has been the combination of their diffusely romantic lyrics with the sweet lilt of James Leesley’s singing voice and the hazy echo of the atmospheric guitar and percussion effects. Their songs have been the quietly introspective type that might provoke a wistful sigh, a rueful smile, or maybe even a catch in your throat. But with ‘Misbehave’, Leesley and his bandmates have purposefully unfixed their gaze from the tips of their shoes and decided to take a more direct approach.

The song’s suggestive opening lyric, “Do you want to misbehave?”, is immediately more visceral and outspoken than anything we’ve heard from High Hazels before. It isn’t an entirely novel idea in the canon of popular song, of course, but the appealing sincerity in Leesley’s singing keeps it from sounding like a bad pick-up line. His vocals become more throaty and anguished as the guileless chorus repeats, “I need to find my way / Before it gets too late / Just tell me what you want to hear / I need to know ‘cos I wanna be near to you.”

Musically, the concise lyrical phrases are punctuated by heavy, pounding drums and chunky guitar countermelodies, while the usually reverberant instrumental texture takes a slight turn toward woozy psychedelia. Producer Matt Peel might be responsible for the experimentation in the audio effects, but the design doesn’t come entirely out of nowhere. Hints of this sound could possibly be heard in the 4-to-the-floor rhythm of other ‘In the Half Light’ EP track ‘Summer Rain’, though ‘Misbehave’ definitely has more groove and more movement.

As a stand-alone single, ‘Misbehave’ is seductively catchy and infectious, but I’m more interested to find out where it will stand in the context of High Hazels’ full LP when that is eventually released. It could serve equally well as a quick change of pace or a complete change of direction. Either way, my curiosity is piqued.


‘Misbehave’ is scheduled for release on the 15th of September on Heist or Hit Records, to be swiftly (we hope!) followed by High Hazels’ debut LP. The official audio of the single can be heard below.


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