Photograph by Ryan Walter Wagner

There is a moment – a silent pulse – nearly four minutes into ‘Rollercoaster’, just before the song careens headfirst over a cliff into a chorus, that nicely situates Black Mountain’s newest album, Wilderness Heart (out September 14 on Jagjaguwar). Standing at the edge of a vast expanse of critical acclaim and popular marketability, the band has opted for a tighter, more elemental sound, which remains at its throbbing best when driven by bombastic rhythms. On this, their third full-length release, Vancouver rockers Black Mountain continue to deliver their signature brand of heavy riffs and sonic swirls, a melange of psych-metal for the sophisticated stoner set. No doubt benefitting from the use of an outside producer for the first time, Black Mountain have released their most succinct and focused album yet. While this quality both enhances and detracts from the product as a whole, the band has once again succeeded in creating some shimmering and memorable songs that should appeal to anyone with a healthy rock pulse.

Lead singer Stephen McBean has described the album as both the band’s most folk and their most metal release to date. However, far from each song being a heaving mess of contradictions, as such a description might suggest, the band has here sought to traverse genres from song to song, while giving increased focus and concentration to each individual effort. Where the band had previously used malleable song structures to spread its swirling sounds across different musical styles within each song itself, an unfortunate consequence of the distinctive shift is a choppy and uneven feeling throughout the album. Here a blissed-out folk song, there a rampaging metal tune, now a wander into psychedelic forest, then back out the other side. Their talent in bending sounds is undeniably powerful, but this new approach is less successful, creating cracks in the sonic worlds that Black Mountain loves to create with each album.

Continue Reading ‘Black Mountain’ Album Review »

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— , September 7, 2010    Comments Off on Black Mountain: Wilderness Heart

Plants & Animals

I just checked out Montreal’s Plants & Animals this weekend at the Wolfe Island Music Festival and couldn’t have been more pleased. A bit Wolf Parade, a bit Apostle of Hustle, but undeniably their own, Plants & Animals is definitely becoming one of Canada’s indie bands to watch. They released their debut album on Secret City Records this February, which was announced in July as one of the contenders for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize.

Plants & Animals – Bye Bye Bye
Plants & Animals – Good Friend

The winner of Polaris will be announced on September 29. The 2008 shortlist is as follows:

I’m rooting for Two Hours Traffic because they’re pretty much my favourite Canadian band right now, their album rules, and they’re the underdog. Any other favourites?

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— , August 15, 2008    2 Comments

I’m not really into reviewing things, but I’ll make the occasional exception for people I think deserve the extra exposure. In this case, I couldn’t pass up saying something about the new Black Mountain album, In The Future. They’re a band close to my heart not only because they hail from Vancouver but also because they’re pretty excellent people in the community. Three members of the band work for Insite, the safe injection site in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. They’re vegetarians. They’re also big players in the local scene. They use their music to support a lot of good community projects. Steve McBean is also the man behind Pink Mountaintops and Jerk with a Bomb, two other bands you should check out if you get the chance.

There’s also lots to say about the band’s music, but if you want big words and tenuous connections go read pitchfork. It’s rocking, it’s awesome, at times it’s overwhelming. Yeah, they sound like Black Sabbath sometimes, and Led Zeppelin sometimes, and the Velvet Underground sometimes. But mostly they sound like Black Mountain and that’s good enough for me. You will like them if you like guitars, or drums, or freedom. Give it a try.

The new album is coming out Jan. 22 on Jagjaguwar. It’s a really great record. Highlights include “Tyrants” (included below), “Stormy High” (coconuts way to kick off the album), “Evil Ways” (not a Santana cover, but the influence is there in the structure and the ideas), and “Bright Lights” (sixteen minutes long!!!). Out of respect to these dudes I’m putting up the song from it that they willingly released themselves. If you like it get the whole album or see them when they roll through your city.

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— , November 30, 2007    1 Comment