Stephen Artemis Jr. has always had an innate ability to merge vivid storytelling with evocative musicianship, and “Highlands and Hills” is no exception. Drawing inspiration from a drive through the Catskill Mountains, Artemis has painted a sonic landscape teeming with contemplation on life, death, and the cyclical nature of existence.
From its inception, the track is drenched in atmospheric allure. The setting of its creation—dusk in the Catskills—immediately sets the stage for a song that is bound to explore the contrast between the ephemeral nature of life and the timeless beauty of the world. Concepts of mortality, vitality, reincarnation, and naturalism aren’t just themes here; they’re characters, each playing their part in a narrative spun by Artemis’s deft lyricism.
The choice to record the track live with the band showcases Artemis’s commitment to authenticity. This raw, unfiltered energy brings an urgency to the music, capturing the spontaneous birth of the song during that fateful drive. There’s a certain magic in knowing that the chords and the arrangement were developed in such an organic manner, echoing the raw inspiration of the lyrics.
Instrumentally, one can imagine the blend of Americana, blues, and indie rock playing out in rich, textured layers. The juxtaposition of gritty blues with the more melodic tendencies of indie rock offers a canvas upon which Stephen’s vocal storytelling shines. Each strum and beat are evocative of the highs and lows of the mountainous terrain that inspired the track.
Having been a force in the NY music scene, leading The Falling Birds to significant underground success, Artemis’s rich history is evident in the maturity and depth of “Highlands and Hills”. His past endeavors, the acclaim from esteemed outlets, and the tours that took him and his band across various terrains have all shaped his musical palate, leading to this moment of poignant introspection.
While the global pandemic might have put a pause on many artists’ trajectories, it seems to have given Artemis an opportunity to delve deeper, to explore the intricacies of his solo sound. “Highlands and Hills” stands as a testament to his resilience and evolution as an artist. It’s a reflection not only of a physical journey through the Catskills but also of the larger journey of an artist constantly in flux, growing, and reshaping his sound.