The High Llamas

By Eli Schoop, Copy Editor

Lately, I’ve been listening to the High Llamas. I don’t really know why, besides the fact that I glanced at the band through someone whose taste I highly respect. They’re not winter music, per se.

At least, as seasonal as people who are Beach Boys obsessives can get in the very least. Warmness as an entity in music is oddly not as praised, even if you’re earnest. Kitsch and irony get a pass, depending on the value of the release, but it’s certainly less beloved than say, a manic-depressive odyssey. It’s not fair to the High Llamas, because all music should strive to this much craft.

The usual comparisons are Stereolab, Nelson Riddle, Brian Wilson, yada yada melody makers. You get the picture. Experimental pop has a weird place in culture. Usually, you see it sit as this pristine ideal not to be interacted with, lest disturbing the mad geniuses at work.

Sean O’Hagan’s group is not that version of pop perfection. Rather, he lets the music prove itself not just through ingenuity, but sheer determination as well. The arrangements are loveliness incarnate. As I sit here, I’m disassociating from ingesting this sort of lush, vital songwriting.  Is there such a thing as too many harmonies?

Moreso, most other bands of the ilk, the High Llamas want to take you on illustrious journeys. Snowbug, their 1999 LP, gently feels out the atmosphere of every track, with none running out of steam.

The last place you’d think the songs would be produced from is the United Kingdom, as the breezy arrangements are reminiscent of Moroccan shores or French villages. It comes as no surprise that O’Hagan went on to compose for films, as his style lends itself magically to cinema, feelings and emotions vibrant in his music.

It’s extremely hard to imagine actual people creating this in a studio, rather than in some enchanted forest where Phil Spector never got incarcerated. Pristine pop of this magnitude can’t be contained by force, even if the nature of it is mellow and serene.


In the past couple of years, I’ve had a mild infatuation with bands and artists that ooze this innovative verve but just couldn’t quite get the acclaim they deserved. Gospel, cLOUDDEAD, Drexciya, and Lilys all fit this bill as sonic pioneers in their respective genres.

The High Llamas exist in this non-acclaimed sphere, quite unfairly. What they devised was unreasonably pushed as derivative and trite, and without proper understanding of their content. Long live the High Llamas, for if they continue to make music, melodic pop will have a bright future.