Pink Mountaintops – [Album]

Saturday, 11 April 2009

When last we heard from Pink Mountaintops, the band had released Axis Of Evol and looked like the only band with the sand to try and wrest the championship of 'underground genius' from Microphones/Mount Eerie visionary Phil Elvrum. Axis certainly made the band seem like an able contender – the sound was bigger, more polished and breathtaking as a result when stacked against Elvrum's indie-informed and obviously budget tape recorded fare – but, for reasons that have never really become clear, it just never worked out. When the dust settled, Elvrum survived and PM mastermind Stephen McBean concentrated more closely on his primary band, Black Mountain. In effect, the competition ended before it had a chance to really get moving.

Time passed, Black Mountain continued on and won some pretty significant fanfare with In The Future, both The Microphones and Mount Eerie quieted outside of the odd reissue and promise to return to action under one name or another, and 'indie rock' became a way of qualifying a sound instead  of a reference to the level at which a band was operating. Curiously, the Pink Mountaintops remained silent outside of brief appearances, giving many the impression that the project was basically spent; after the newness and sheen faded, the singer lost interest and let the idea drop.

As it turns out though, Pink Mountaintops weren't a dead or abandoned creative avenue at all – the project was only sleeping.

Now awakened from a three-year slumber, McBean's pet project surges back refreshed with Outside Love. It can't be said that it's like they never left though, because the time spent in stasis did nothing but good things for the resulting songs – most notably, McBean and his assembled cohorts (members of Black Mountain, Bonnie Prince Billy, Silver Mt. Zion and Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter) sound like they have something prove through every one of the new album's ten tracks.

Outside Love opens with epic, “Up Where We Belong” grandeur as synths, spare but monolithic drumming and sleigh bells erect an enormous wall of sound in “Axis: Thrones Of Love” to announce Pink Mountaintops' return and set the lofty tone for the record. As “Axis” plays out, McBean scrawls beautiful panoramas on its face (choice evocative lines include “And the girls don't look so pretty/ To these eyes stung by the city”) and is joined by the heavenly chorus of contributors he's enlisted to articulate the workings of the most spiritual machine to cross the rock landscape in a very, very long time.

With that image laid out, the Pink Mountaintops examine every facet of that monument and play every discovery they make there from the lush, green base (“And I Thank You,” “Vampire,” “Holiday”) to the staggering, breathtaking summits and spires (“Execution,” “While We Were Dreaming”) and every footstep in between (“The Gayest Of Sunbeams” has a 'gee-whiz' cool walking rhythm that plays like a cross between “Devil's Haircut” by Beck, “Man On The Moon” by R.E.M. and The Ting Tings' “Shut Up And Let Me Go”), much to the thrill of the band (it's pretty obvious) and those potential fans that find the album. The swirl of images and emotional transitions is as ceaseless and unrelenting as the obviously programmed drums that drive most of the album but, no matter which emotional form takes the forefront, the effect is ultimately elating because there is is always an upward angle in each song that leaves listeners with a feeling of warmth and joy.


Pink Mountaintops online

Pink Mountaintops myspace


Outside Love comes out through Jagjaguwar records on May 5, 2009. Pre-order it here at Amazon .

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