Aztec Camera's First Album: So Good, It's Hard to Believe a Teenager Wrote It
High Land, Hard Rain
It's hard to believe Scotland's Roddy Frame was a teenager when he released the first Aztec Camera album three decades ago. The bittersweet yet buoyant acoustic pop of the immensely appealing High Land, Hard Rain feels like the testimony of a well-traveled soul, mixing remarkably cliché-free tales of romantic travail with catchy, deceptively sophisticated melodies.
Frame's restraint may be the most impressive thing about this luminous work: Radiant, big-hearted tunes like "Oblivious" and "Walk Out to Winter" could easily be repurposed as sprawling mass-appeal (i.e., cheesy) epics, but his thoughtful attention to detail produces more-believable vignettes that cut deep. This reissue augments the original 10-track album with a bonus disc of 16 rarities—extra songs, live versions, and remixes—none of them essential, but all worth hearing.