Metro Weekly

Album Review: High Dive by Shaed

Shaed's debut album High Dive turns out to have been well worth the wait

Shaed
Shaed — Photo: Jared Zagha

Shaed has been making music together for a decade, and the DC-based trio has been turning heads at least since their EP Melt, which included a runaway hit “Trampoline.” After Zayn’s remix of the single scored them a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2018, according to the band, the pressure was on to make lightning strike twice. After finishing recording in early 2020, Shaed looked at what they had made and decided something about it just didn’t feel right. Rather than tweak what they already had, they made the bold choice to start from scratch and create High Dive (★★★★☆), the result of a desire for a sound that felt more authentic.

Shaed’s decision to scrap and start over didn’t appear in a vacuum, of course. The trio have been open about reaching a tipping point with their mental health over the past year, and the reckoning and shift in perspective that followed are palpable on the decidedly introspective album. The hypnotic, sultry opener “Dizzy” is the first hint that this album was not made in ideal circumstances. The anxiety and uncertainty of the early months of the pandemic are the background radiation of the album, reflected in the moody undercurrent of tracks like the wistful, waltzy “Once Upon A Time,” and the shimmering pop anthem “No Other Way.”

Despite the fraught times that colored the making of High Dive, it is a rich, powerful, and triumphant-sounding pop record. The front half in particular is full of tracks that would stand remarkably well on their own, but together make for a tightly cohesive and highly replayable album, peaking with the anguished-yet-hypnotic title track. While the energy dips on the lower half, it is held up by “No Other Way” and the vocal-heavy showstopper “Visible Woman.”

Shaed: High Dive
Shaed: High Dive

Chelsea Lee’s vocals are a definite highlight on the album, more versatile and captivating than they have ever been before, but the chemistry between Lee and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst is undeniable. Much has been made of the depth and drama lent to the album by its strings section, and with good reason. It’s not the only impressive innovation they’ve made to their sound since Melt, but it is the most obvious and arguably the one with the biggest payoff, elevating the strong tracks and adding a bit of flair and dimension to the sleepier tracks the album coasts out on.

By the time the Zayn version of “Trampoline” makes its mandatory appearance, we’ve seen Shaed show off so many other tricks that it almost feels perfunctory. High Dive stands as a masterclass in how to craft a stunning debut LP after a major hit. A runaway single is a tough act to follow, but in choosing not to chase another chart-topper and instead pursue something more personal, meaningful, and honest, Shaed has come up with an impressive debut album that proves they will have a lot to offer for years to come.

High Dive is now available on all major streaming platforms and purchase from Photo Finish Records. Visit www.photofinishrecords.com/shaed.

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