Sound — 7
Chris Cornell has been making music for a pretty long time now - he really started off with Soundgarden who formed in 1984, though they weren't really heard by a national or international audience until 1991 with the release of "Badmotorfinger," which coincided with the initial attentions turned towards Seattle and grunge. While "Badmotorfinger" definitely caught everyone's attention, the next album, released in 1994, "Superunknown" became the album that made them a household name at the time, going 5x platinum. At the time, Nirvana had blown up and brought a lot more attention to certain types of bands, though especially bands out of Seattle and the surrounding areas. Soundgarden finally received the attention they deserved, being one of the best bands of the genre. Chris Cornell released his first solo album, "Euphoria Morning," in 1999 - at this time Soundgarden had been broken up for almost two years, and Chris was still several months away from joining/forming Audioslave. Since that time, Chris has worked consistently both as a solo artist, as well as with Audioslave and then once again with Soundgarden since 2010. Chris has released 1 live album and "Higher Truth" is his 4th studio album release. There are 12 tracks on the album, with a runtime of just a little under 50 minutes.
"Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart" opens up with the type of material that I associate with Cornell's most creative output. There is a quirky arpeggio played on an ukulele (or an aggressively capo'd acoustic guitar) that joins with Cornell's vocals, which come in with a melody that immediately brings to mind some of Chris' early songs. "Dead Wish" opens up with an acoustic guitar playing a meandering little part that somehow reminds me of Grateful Dead and The Doors at the same time - the percussion on this track does a lot to create a mood for this song. Chris has stated that all the percussion or the album was either created with samples, or was played on a small kit by producer, Brendan O'Brien. "Worried Moon" is a good example of the intimate and laid back vibe the whole album seems to have to one degree or another. The song relies on some very minimal instrumentation, for the most part, though it gets much more layered during the choruses. The song shines at its most minimal, when Chris' voice is the primary instrumentation. "Before We Disappear" is an acoustic rock type of song, with Chris providing his own backing vocals. This one could almost be a country song if Chris had the right type of twang in his voice, but it is a solid track. "Through the Window" is another laid back track, built around a repeating riff on an acoustic guitar and some interesting "what if" lyrics. "Josephine" is a "lost love" song and builds itself around a mostly acoustic guitar (once again), though there is a string section adding its voice in there, because it makes it more melancholy that way.
"Murderer of Blue Skies" has an interesting singing guitar solo that sets it apart as most of the tracks on the album don't really have solos. The song, itself, has an interesting message with the lyrics: "I can't wait to never be with you again." The title track, "Higher Truth," opens up with piano and Chris' vocals borrowing a vocal melody that sounds reminiscent of some earlier era crooner song, but I can't place what song it is. The melodic instrumental hook is from the same track that I can't name, I believe. "Let Your Eyes Wander" is picked on guitar with an orchestral string section (or samples thereof) and piano adding some oomph to the track, with the lyrics dealing with finding love then leaving love, then eventually coming back to it. "Only These Words" has lyrics that kind of read like a fairy tale; it is a song for one of Chris' daughters and it really is a beautiful song. "Circling" has a unique sound to it - like a lot of the album, it is dominated by an acoustic guitar and laid back "beatnik" percussion like shakers, bongos, and a simple kit like a lot of the album, but little additions do a lot to separate it from the rest of the album. "Our Time in the Universe" is about as close as the album gets to anything from Chris' last album, "Scream," and the dance-oriented music. This track just does this with some very electronic percussion and straightforward beat and progression. The bass line is one of the most dominant parts of this track.
Lyrics — 7
Chris Cornell has been known for having over 4 octaves of vocal range, and he has historically made good use of his range. "Higher Truth" doesn't really show Chris doing anything new, so much as it just shows him crafting his artistry with calm confidence. That isn't to say that Chris doesn't "try" on "Higher Truth," but he definitely plays safe in a lot of ways, but then executes playing it safe with some serious style. In some quick moments, Chris' vocal melodies reach back to an era, in my opinion, where he was much more creative and unconventional - though these moments pass and he goes back to the more straightforward vocal melodies. The lyrics are really across the board on the album. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the title track, "Higher Truth": "You can make somebody cry/ Go on/ Do what you like/ I'll be there by your side/ I know/ What the future holds/ You can set the world on fire/ Yeah if you want/ It isn't hard/ I won't be there looking on/ To see the trail of lies/ As you fall/ But I'll take the truth/ The higher truth." The lyrics aren't groundbreaking, but they work well with the songs.
Overall Impression — 8
I went into this album with pretty low expectations after "Scream" - I wasn't a fan of that album or what it was trying to do. I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. "Higher Truth" doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it is a solidly crafted album. My favorite songs from the album would probably be "Dead Wish" and "Through the Window." With that being said, I would be perfectly happen to listen to this album play from beginning to end - I don't really dislike any songs on this album.