Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Dizzy HeightsLester LRNF0011CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***


In the 12 years since Neil Finn released his last solo disc, One Nil (US title: One All), he’s done a recording with his brother Tim, Everyone Is Here (2004), and two with Crowded House: Time on Earth (2007) and Intriguer (2010). In 2012 he cowrote and performed “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” the end-titles song for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and in 2013 he found time to collaborate with the great Australian songwriter Paul Kelly on Goin’ Your Way. Finn is a pop craftsman, a gifted melodist, and an expressive singer who handles ballads and rockers with equal skill. Longtime fans will hear those qualities in Dizzy Heights, but the disc contains quite a few surprises.

“Help me make up a new sound,” Finn sings in the title track, and to that end he enlisted the help of producer David Fridmann (MGMT, Tame Impala, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev). Fridmann’s production style tends toward a lot of processing, and Dizzy Heights has its share of swirling keyboards, sound effects, and enhanced drums. While Finn has occasionally employed such studio techniques in the past, the new disc is packed with strange sounds.

Finn’s songcraft keeps Dizzy Heights from being overbearing, although sometimes I wish Fridmann had stepped back a little. The title track is aided by bouncy keyboards and echo-drenched guitars, and Finn’s processed voice is well matched to the tune. The lightly explosive kickdrum in “Impressions” helps create a slightly ominous feel that builds in intensity. Elsewhere, however, Finn and Fridmann stumble. “Divebomber” is all effects and an odd falsetto from Finn, and is the one track that doesn’t really come off -- it’s all bombast when a lighter touch was called for.

Neil Finn

On the other hand, the drum machine in “Better than TV” is the right choice, and as the track builds, Elroy Finn’s real drums help develop the song. The lengthy intro to “White Lies and Alibis” could perhaps have been shorter, but Finn’s sure melodic touch ensures that the song is accessible and memorable. “Lights of New York” lists just Finn on piano and vocal, to which Fridmann adds effects to give the performance an edge. Finn’s slightly strained, out-of-tune voice gives the song a strong emotional pull, but anyone who’s followed his career knows there’s nothing he can’t sing.

Dizzy Heights is a family affair, with Finn’s wife, Sharon, on bass, and sons Elroy and Liam respectively playing drums and guitar. Other musicians lend support, including Glenn Kotche of Wilco and New Zealand singer Aaradhna. Fridmann engineered and mixed as well as produced, and Greg Calbi mastered, with help from Steve Fallone -- it all sounds unexpectedly good, considering the layers of detail applied. It’s a deeper, less compressed sound than I might have expected, and it opens up considerably through good equipment.

At times, Dizzy Heights seems like a bold experiment, and hearing it in higher fidelity makes it a much more enjoyable experience. I’ve enjoyed Fridmann’s work with other musicians, and Finn’s melodies stay in the head regardless of what’s going on around them. Still, this collaboration is probably best as a one-off.

. . . Joseph Taylor