Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.
Mount Moriah: “Lament”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/mountmoriah_lament.mp3|titles=Mount Moriah: “Lament”]
Back in 2005, Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller met while working at a record store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two would delve into their own musical endeavors — McEntire partaking in the post-punk outfit Bellafea and Miller in the avant/psych-metal project Horseback. After the pair collaborated as Un Deux Trois on the Lovers EP in 2007, they decided to make their collaboration a full-time gig, and they formed Mount Moriah, releasing a debut EP, The Letting Go, last year.
It was soon obvious that Mount Moriah was a stark departure for McEntire and Miller, as they traded in their obscure, not-easily-defined credentials for stripped-down alt-country/folk music. And the duo’s knack for crafting simple (but not simplistic) classic tunes comes through loud and clear on Mount Moriah’s self-titled follow-up.
The band enlisted peer musicians from such bands as St. Vincent and Megafaun, among a variety of other North Carolina-based musicians, crafting pop-infused, countrified folk rock. The album is propelled by McEntire’s soft, heavenly vocals, which are occasionally adorned by Miller’s euphoric harmonies, evoking tales of woe and love gone wrong as well as themes of redemption, devotion, and entrapment. For instance, on “Only Way Out,” McEntire and Miller sing, “You’ll return to him ’cause he reminds you of your father / and it helps you sleep at night and brings you comfort.” But with that “comfort” for the protagonist also comes strife in knowing that the only way out, so to speak, is to return to something regretfully.
Though the lyrics encompass themes of hopeless devotion and a sense of paralysis, the music is anything but, able to weave in and out of the folk genre fluidly. The album’s country influence is immediately apparent from the get-go (and to be fair, it stays grounded in it for the entirety of the record), but Mount Moriah is always able to put a modern, indie spin on the traditional music genre. With a lap steel, lead guitars, and a subtle bass line and drumming at the helm for the duration of the album, each song could’ve been torn from the page of any number of traditional American folk bands; however, Mount Moriah is always conscious never to fall into the genre-naming trap, instead taking an edgier approach. Offering an uptempo beat and distorted guitars on tracks like “Social Wedding Rings” and weeping violins on the haunting “Old Gowns” and closer “Hail, Lighting,” Mount Moriah is able to take expand on the genre, taking it to new heights.
All in all, the duo’s departure from the harder, more obscure music scene is a welcome one. Rarely are bands able to infuse so much intensity into such a short span of time (the album is only eight tracks long, clocking in at just under 40 minutes) while using such sparse instrumentation and arrangements. McEntire and Miller are able to take the reins of folk music, lead it to new terrain, and make a home there for themselves.