pink mountaintops

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

Pink Mountaintops – Vampire

Pink Mountaintops – While We Were Dreaming

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Pink Mountaintops

Pink Mountaintops have a new album called Outside Love coming out on May 5th via Jagjaguwar. You may know Steve McBean (above) from his other band, Black Mountain. For those familiar with Black Mountain, you may be expecting some heavy psychedelic rock. “Vampire” is surprisingly smooth with McBean’s voice accompanied mostly by an acoustic guitar.

More about the album:

The ten songs on Outside Love are about or influenced by weddings in Montreal, winter, Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, Christmas albums, that one Exile song and that one Echo and the Bunnymen song, the Bermuda Triangle, being depressed in the sunshine, people who haven’t made out yet but will in the future, The Everly Brothers, clowns in the ceilings, and bedrooms where skinheads used to live.‚  They are songs of love and hate that read like a Danielle Steele romance novel but that would probably make for bad television.‚  Recorded at multiple studios, Outside Love was mixed at Elmwood Studios by John Congleton (Modest Mouse, Black Mountain, Explosions In The Sky, The Mountain Goats).

If you ever have a chance to catch Steve McBean live (with any project), I’d highly recommend it. The Black Mountain show I caught at Schubas in Chicago a few years back is one of the most memorable I’ve seen. McBean gets lost in his music and seems to enter another world.

Pink Mountaintops – Vampire

From Black Mountain:

Black Mountain – Tyrants

Black Mountain – Druganaut