Folk music is pretty damn cool. It’s one of the few genres that really hasn’t gone out of style. Bob Dylan and The Tallest Man On Earth just want to tell their stories, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash and Fleet Foxes obsess over vocal harmonies. The raw simplicity and emotion that’s tied in with this music, too, has spanned across decades, caressing the ears of listeners that just can’t get enough.
So what’s the next big thing, then? After all, the new Mumford album isn’t due out until September.
Meet Silent Old Mtns., a humble group of talented musicians that is on the brink of exploding all over the indie scene. Their debut record, Velvet Raccoon, explores the edgy and dirty side of folk-rock, resulting in one of the most refreshingly different listening experiences of this year.
Lead vocalist Andrew Bromhal fronts the group with a passionate and sultry approach to singing, warming up every track with a natural elegance. With an acoustic guitar in his hands as well, he also provides a subtle rhythm track that never overstays its welcome, despite an obvious nod to Bon Iver on “Pigeons.”
Other instrumentation includes piano, banjo, bass, drums, and other miscellaneous, sonic goodies. Banjo player Samuel Whalen also adds some incredibly intricate vocal work throughout the album, which ranges from intense counter melodies to obscure spoken word, the latter seeming rather conceptual. The ending of “Mine to Give,” for example, exemplifies this with full force. The spastic poetry is muffled in the mix, and is performed with utter sincerity, turning a great track into a superb one. It’s an authentic element that succeeds without coming across as gimmicky, and definitely contributes to the band’s originality.
The one ingredient, however, that shoves other albums in this genre out of the way is the production. Not often do you hear instrumentation and tonal qualities that match as seamlessly as they do on Velvet Raccoon. Every instrument receives wonderful treatment and equal balance within the mix; all while being surrounded by various sounds and colorful effects. “Dead All the Time” features some sort of creaking wood, the soundstage on “You’ve Got Your Sights On Me Now” is absolutely huge, and the use of reverb is actually appropriate from song to song. The sonic palette of this record is beautiful and vast, and it propels the album to be something truly special.
Overall, Velvet Raccoon is the first step of a visionary band with an honest and original sound. Here in 2012, where folk-rock was, for the first time, becoming somewhat redundant, Silent Old Mtns. is about to turn some heads.
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