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Mountain Man

Made the Harbor

[Bella Union; 2010]

By ; August 13, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

While listening to Made the Harbor, the debut album by Vermont’s Mountain Man, I continue to ask myself the same question: how does this album, so simple in its execution, continue to defy my usual taste in music? Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath, together as Mountain Man, combine to make a thoroughly compelling a capella album that occupies the space between mother nature and minimal folk.

Whereas I usually fall in love with synth-touting electro bands, Mountain Man have come along and captured my heart with Made the Harbor, an album that is sparsely decorated with quiet guitar rhythms and soothing harmonies. And the group is certainly not shy about their style either, from the first time the three voices come to together to describe the Mississippi River on “Buffalo,” to the last time they converge on “River,” Mountain Man maintain the same formula. Three part harmonies and maybe a guitar, and structure that is so simple and yet feels so unique on Made the Harbor.

It’s obvious from the track list alone that the album focuses primarily on nature, a perfect vision for their organic sound. One of the group’s original demos, “Animal Tracks,” beautifully describes a summer afternoon: “We’ll follow animal tracks/ to a tree in the woods and a hole in the leaves we’ll see/ the bright baby eyes of a chickadee.” There’s almost a nostalgic feel to each lyric, a sense that each member has had these experiences but will never be able to reclaim their perfection. Mountain Man feel like story tellers, transposing their listeners into the glowing ferns, rushing waters, and warm summer nights of years gone by.

But there’s also a sense of seduction on the album. The sexy and daring “Soft Skin” is the most obvious example, with lines like “I’ve got soft skin, are you gonna let me in?” and “We’re so wet and we’re so tight/ lean me down into the floor tonight.” Lyrically it sounds like something Peaches or Amanda Blank would write. “Soft Skin” is followed by the trio’s most fascinating song, “How’m I Doin’” which ebbs and flows rhythmically like a Barbershop tribute, telling the tale of a New Orleans seductress on stage.

Made the Harbor will ultimately be an album that you either love or hate due to the fact that Mountain Man have such a distinct style and sound. Those who are fans of breathtaking vocals and gorgeous harmonies should put Mountain Man on your radar. Furthermore as an album that focuses on a single idea, not one that sounds like a collection of singles, Made the Harbor is something rarely accomplished in today’s single-heavy media and should be acknowledged.


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