If HiHazel's Private Palace (self-released, 2016) were a real place, it would be a temple built to worship psychedelic rock 'n' roll. Inside would be a room dense with smoke, incense, and crimson and clover (whatever that is). A shrine to Arthur Lee, Syd Barrett and Roky Erickson would be illuminated by candles and purple string lights and would have a mantle covered in psychedelic artifacts; The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat (Verve, 1968), a Sun Ra plush doll, love beads, a copy of The Monkees' 1968 film Head, a didgeridoo (or two), Spaceman 3's live album Dreamweapon (Fierce, 1995) and probably drug paraphernalia. It's here the young musicians in local band HiHazel live.
Worship is easy, but creating a personal offering that neither blasphemes nor plagiarizes is difficult. HiHazel succeeded with Private Palace, the band's debut album, which was released digitally Aug. 1 via Bandcamp and will be available on CD soon.
Recorded in the spring of 2016 in a Guadalajara, Mexico, Private Palace is a six-song document of an exotic place. On the album's opening track, "Rolling Stoned," the first sound is a car driving along a gravel road, the beginning of an atmospheric texture carried throughout the album by barking dogs and enthusiastic yelps from the band. "Charles and Mary," a stuttering pop song that could be the record's single, is an ode to partying that ends with a fuzzed-out garage-rock guitar solo rocketing into space before self-destructing into feedback. Private Palace is less than 30 minutes long but contains two freakout jams, the highlight being the subtle but hypnotic drone, "Ride into the Sun."
If anything is lacking on Private Palace it's subject matter. "Sarah" and "Odessa" are simple sketches about siren women who can only be contained in the bedroom. While "Rolling Stoned" and "Ride into the Sun" are kiss-off songs to these same women, HiHazel's detached chanting vocals are only dropped on "Means to an End" for the lyric "Nothing should ever be a means to an end / That's what she told me," a proper but meaningless break-up sentiment, unless "she" is "Sarah" and/or "Odessa." then maybe that's the point.
Private Palace may not break boundaries but it is a solid record from a confident band, and it's a record that just gets better with repeat listens. HiHazel plays Neurolux on Saturday, Aug. 20, as both opener for Portland, Ore.-based garage rockers Wooden Indian Burial Ground and as a CD release party. It's the perfect opportunity to make your own offering at the altar of psychedelic rock 'n' roll.