Best Rock Band: Manic-depressive post-breakup analysis

Our Lady of the Highway

No, this unfailingly polite Oakland band doesn’t rawk in the beloved head-banging, dude-passing, fire-breathing sense of the word. Our Lady specializes in early-’90s “college rock,” gentle and wispy and sweetly melodic, like that from the era back when rock critics were obsessed with the word “jangly.” Vintage REM springs to mind, but Michael Stipe’s jumbled grad student wordplay can’t hold a candle to Highway frontman Dominic East, a disconcertingly giddy firebrand who delightedly bellows, in a clear, powerful, direct voice, the most down-and-out depressing ex-girlfriend anthems you’ll ever hear. From his lips, the chorus I think I’m coming apart at the seams carries the same anthemic joy as I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night/And party every day. It’s a strange but entrancing card trick — the Highway’s sad-sack barroom pop will make you happier in your sadness and loneliness than you’ve ever been.

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