Other Mountains market “Mare’s Nest” as being a post-emo record, which makes me ponder on the prefix “post-” and its consequential meaning. For the most, it’s a philosophical term that indicates digression, away from the values of a certain concept, often in favour of ideas that contradict said concept. It often means that the previous idea has become obsolete and that something new and contradictory has become truth. It makes me wonder what Other Mountains have to bring, because even though I’m slowly outgrowing my teenage self, I still feel like one of those new romantics that emerged in the early 00s.
After an EP and a single, Other Mountains have decided to give the full-length a shot. “Mare’s Nest” sees the pair of “edgy, mid-20s hipsters” from Los Angeles shedding more emo-influences in favour of indie folk ambient and post-rock tones. Yeah, that’s a mouthful. Other Mountains have drifted more into the territory of groups like Message to Bears, that produce a brand of dreaminess that is not really caught within specific terms. I call it indie music, but I know that’s not really what the word indie means. “Life is Full of Awkward Goodbyes, What’s One More?” is a song characterised by this indie music. Moaned vocals over dreamy pianos, braced by soft electronic beats and the typical big arena drums. Especially those last two instruments seem to be in some sort of conversation with each other, where the acoustic drums take over a groove from the electronic beats, which really shows drummer Marc Kohlbry’s aptitude behind the kit.
RELEASE DATE: 30 July 2014 LABEL: Independent
The same musical talent is found with singer and pianist Matthew Oden, who is without a doubt a skilful player. What strikes me the most however is his ability to write piano parts that feel so right; they are not complicated, they are not overly theatrical, they aptly lead each song into the mind of the listener, without troubling him or her with needless trifles.
Thematically, this album proudly carries its emo banner. The simple, anthemic lines sung by Oden touch on general themes of love, death, social relations and the like. Taking the lyrics at face value, they all seem very generic and boring, but the song titles on “Mare’s Nest” clarify a lot. Songs like “People Are Not Good to Each Other and I Suppose They Never Will Be” and “Just the Fucking Earth” seem to broaden the social aspect beyond the personal and into the communal and ecological realms. Really, Other Mountains seem to move past the introverted melancholic and his solipsism to a more social form of awareness and grief. It’s like crying together in stead of alone.
What grieves me more however, than the dying earth and the enslavement of society is the album’s production; it lacks focus. The guitars are full of wondrous subtleties and the tapping on “Bread & Circus” is magnificent. However the parts are always drowned out by needless soundscapes and the plain volume of the other instruments. The vocals and drums are covered in a haze of mid tones making them lack a certain crisp that would have made the record explode. Songs like “Slaves” and “Just the Fucking Earth” could’ve made “Mare’s Nest” excellent but they just lack the extra touch to really shine through and make the listener crave another listen.
On top, I feel that “Mare’s Nest” is needlessly long. “Wake” with it’s obligatory spoken word passage and the massive “Alter Altar” delay the album’s end well beyond my interest. The latter song is over 17 minutes long and though it’s a very good song in itself, its positioning on the record is somewhat unfortunate. I understand that they’re necessary to make the thematic journey from “Gaslighting” to “Resting Place”, but I have the tendency to stop listening after “Bulkhead” and I have to remind myself of the goodness of “Just the Fucking Earth” so I won’t turn off before that.
Other Mountains have definitely delivered on their premise of making a post-emo record. The dominant role of the piano, as well as the ambient passages and the diminishing of the guitars really surpass the emo genre. Still, the record retains many of its emotionally appealing qualities. However, production does a lot of damage and much of the hour long album is unnecessarily dreamy and long-winded, making it seem as if the post-emo genre as of yet hasn’t awakened into its full glory and potential.