Pink Mountaintops – Outside Love [Album Review]

by Woody on June 15, 2009

pink mountaintops

From the magnificent city of Vancouver (known for its recently vanquished Canucks at the hands of the mighty Hawks) come the sounds of native son Stephen McBean and his close collective of contributors.‚  McBean is better known for his role fronting the psychedelic Black Mountain, but don’t mistake Pink Mountaintops for a “side project.” Outside Love is an ambitious effort that reveals McBean as one of the great arrangers/composers of the day.

Whereas Black Mountain borrows from 70’s psych such as Floyd and Jefferson Airplane, Pink Mountaintops employs the softer 60’s techniques, including those of Phil Spector.‚  Black Mountain kicks out “stoner operas” featuring tracks that extend well into the 8 to 10-minute ranges and there’s always that pounding percussion driving their music forward.‚  In contrast, Pink Mountaintop’s rhythm section is scarcely noticeable, sometimes coming courtesy of a drum machine or a guitar pick.‚  Of course there are similarities between the bands, the dark themes, melancholy lyrics and cynical religious imagery, to name a few.

I do love this record–seemingly for some new reason with each additional listen.‚  There are layers upon layers in these tracks with orchestral string arrangements, choirs, and bridges provided by horn sections.‚  One of the highlights is the opening song, “Axis: Thrones of Love” with its reflection of wall-of-sound and 60’s girl group qualities.‚  McBean, as the narrator, cynically asks his listener “how deep is your love?” while describing his as “cheap and plastic”.

Other gems include the title track, beautifully backed by a church organ and male-female harmonizing vocals, intertwined with skuzzy lead guitar and Andrew Bird-esque whistling.‚ ‚  I wouldn’t throw this one on your breezy summer BBQ mix tape because it’s one dark show-stopper.‚  I also really enjoy the country-tinged duet “And I Thank You” along with “The Gayest of Sunbeams,” which could pass for a Handsome Furs or Kills track.‚  The latter includes one of my favorite lines on the entire record, “she rose like an arc in my spine.” The former is accented nicely by soft mandolin. Fans of Black Mountain will love this music for its experimental take on those same dark themes while fans of indie music will love this record for its variety.

MySpace | Jagjaguwar

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Woody June 15, 2009 at 9:04 am

Great album. You can really hear the whole Wall of Sound thing throughout this album.

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