If you’ve been looking to put a little pop into your spring rock playlist, you’d best give the latest release from The Hugs, “Mile High Lady,” a spin as soon as possible. Along with an accompanying music video, this new single is a picture window into the current state of one of Portland’s most exciting pop/rock trios, and while it doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know about this Northwest band in terms of talent and skill, it gives us plenty of insight into where they’re taking their deliciously decadent sound next. Their style is evolving with their scene, and I think it’s looking bolder than ever in “Mile High Lady.”

The drums are very loud in this mix, but they don’t intrude on the beautifully arranged guitar or vocal track at all. The bassline battles with the percussion for dominance over the backend of the song, but ultimately, it’s the listeners who are rewarded with the spoils of war here – a gritty low-end tonality that complements the bright textures in the vocal perfectly. It’s a little more abrasive than what I was expecting, but at the same time, I think that The Hugs could stand to put a little more overdrive into their riffs.

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/album/6T0p1NfOZjnboMqvgvAieh

That said, these guitars featured in “Mile High Lady” are larger than life, and even without the virtuosity of a overindulgent solo or manipulations of some old school blues model, they’re able to create a lot of tension in the track just the same. They play as much of a role in developing the evocative fabric of this music as any of the other components do, and for what I was looking for here, they’re more than satisfying in terms of sonic intensity, agility and strength of organic tonality.

I like that the bassline is understated in the chorus after imparting so much passion in the verses that lead up to it. This is a refreshing way to arrange the instrument in today’s excessive music culture, and arguably helps for it to be as defined in the grander scheme of things as would be possible for a streamlined pop/rock song like this one. There’s clearly a lot that went into making “Mile High Lady,” both the video and the single, and while I’ve liked what I’ve heard out of The Hugs’ camp in the past, this just feels like a step above what I’d assumed them capable of.

Before picking up this latest release in the last month, I wasn’t super-familiar with this band’s work, nor was I aware of the depth that they had in the studio (partly because they’d never demonstrated it to such a degree as they do here), but I can tell you now that I consider myself a fan after getting hooked on “Mile High Lady.” It’s got a swing beat that I just can’t get out of my head, and for all the talk about rock getting further and further away from pop relevance, this group seems to have struck the penultimate balance between the two for the time being.

Michael Rand

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