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Album Review: TBA

Monday, October 25, 2010

Album Review: Mt. Desolation - Mt. Desolation

Mt. Desolation is the deceptively morbid moniker for the new vehicle featuring Keane’s songwriter-in-chief/pianist, Tim Rice-Oxley, and their bassist/percussionist, Jesse Quin. Calling on their contacts to help add flavour, they’ve drafted in The Killers’ drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Mumford & Sons’ banjo-player Country Winston and Noah And The Whale’s fiddle-player Tom Hobden. Their MySpace page describes this hotch-potch band, somewhat cryptically, as a mixture of Chinese traditional and Italian pop, although they sound more like a conglomeration of twee folk and giddy alt-country to me.

Tracks like ‘Departure’ and ‘Platform 7′ are devilishly happy-go-lucky tracks that swing with fat double bass, brushed snare and banjo – the former makes a feature of the freewheeling fiddle whilst the latter is all about the rhythmic plink of the piano. Other songs like ‘Bridal Gown’, ‘My My My’ and ‘State Of Our Affairs’ thicken the pace to venture down emotive paths as the softly-delivered vocals cut deeper – Rice-Oxley also craftily tweaks his delivery to add some quite poignant touches.

Taken with a pinch of salt, this eponymous album serves as a welcome deviation to the standard negativity of much that follows these particular genres around and it’s certainly great to actually hear the band enjoying themselves behind their instruments. But there are more serious moments when familiarity begins to merely breed contempt. There’s plenty that follows the same old predictable pattern; a style of songwriting that Rice-Oxley clearly feels comfortable with. The clinically-adept ‘Annie Ford’, for instance, unabashedly soaks itself in the filthy bathwater of former country music pioneers, lathering on sweeping pop licks with a rich hook and a hefty dose of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

By the time the epic croons of ‘Bitter Pill’ sweep into view, mid-album, you’ll be thinking of Mt. Desolation as a kind of countrified Keane. As breezily adept as this all is, it’s still somewhat disappointing to find just how short a distance the players are prepared to venture from their comfortable position in the middle of the road.

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