The "trippy country meets stoner rock" of Vancouver's Pink Mountaintops is the brainchild of Stephen McBean, who is also the singer/songwriter/guitarist for Black Mountain, which was formerly known as Jerk with a Bomb. McBean's solo project was also known by another name, One Easy Skag. He began playing with Jerk with a Bomb in the late '90s, and the band issued three albums and a 7" under that name. By late 2003, both Jerk with a Bomb and One Easy Skag were rechristened with their mountainous names, and in the summer of 2004, the Pink Mountaintops' self-titled debut album arrived. While the album became one of 2005's most prominent indie rock releases, McBean brought Pink Mountaintops back the following year with Axis of Evol. The well-received Outside Love arrived in 2009, followed by a pair of Black Mountain releases (In the Future and Wilderness Heart). The group's fourth studio album, Get Back, dropped in early 2014.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 5, 2009 | Jagjaguwar
Pink Mountaintops' previous release, the rather lo-fi Axis of Evol, felt a bit like Stephen McBean's tossed-off side project, but Outside Love sounds much more fully developed, reaching heights every bit as breathtaking as his main band, Black Mountain. The group zigzags through a few disparate styles here, but these changes in trajectory are smoothed into a cohesive whole by the haze of sleepy psychedelia that pervades throughout. They channel barroom country & western on "And I Thank You," while McBean's stunning duet with guest vocalist Jesse Sykes on the title track evokes the haunted, glacial slowcore sound of Low. She's actually one of several enchanting female voices that saddle up with his to create the album's consistently expansive, layered vocals, which fit perfectly alongside the Phil Spector-esque roar of reverb and saturation that frequently emerges. The feedback-laden production is also reminiscent of the Magnetic Fields' 2008 foray into Jesus and Mary Chain terrain, especially on the rollicking "Execution," which pits a rousing melody against sheets of white noise. To accompany the immensity of the sound, melodramatic themes concerning dying for love, living on the edge of desolation, and "angels burning in sin and flame" populate the songs, with the always first-person narration generally reveling in its own destruction. On the other hand, tracks like the harmonica-laden "Holiday" and album finale "Closer to Heaven" sound lyrically ebullient -- at least until you realize that it's only a product of their desperation. For all the drama, though, there's a remarkable sense of grandeur in this material, which comes from a mixture of blissful melodies and deliberate pacing. Album highlight "Vampire," for instance, is downright spine-tingling in its majestic build from a sparse beginning to a soaring coda, concluding with a rousing proclamation of "You can suck out the blood/But you can't kill the heart of my love." What makes Outside Love most compelling is that grim sort of optimism, delivered through a well-crafted sound that is as sedated as it is passionate, and simple as it is profound. © Ben Peterson /TiVo
Alternative & Indie - Released March 7, 2006 | Jagjaguwar
Lo-fi indie rock is alive and well in 2006, as evidenced by the arrival of the sophomore effort by Pink Mountaintops, Axis of Evol. Stephen McBean returns once more with a set of tracks that sound akin to an amalgamation of John Frusciante's early solo work and the great Skip Spence. McBean certainly has a thing for psychedelic sounds -- it's hard not to listen to "Slaves" and not feel like you're about to start hallucinating yourself, while "Cold Criminals" brings to mind the Velvet Underground. But it's not a retro sound that Pink Mountaintops specialize in entirely, as evidenced by the electro beats on "Lord Let Us Shine," and the Sonic Youth-like guitar strumming on "New Drug Queens." And you can't get more minimalist and melancholy than on both the album opening and closing tracks, "Comas" and "How We Can Get Free," respectively. It's good to see that there are still artists out there who march to the beat of their own drummer, and could care less about penning songs in hopes of landing a beer commercial. And for that, you are certainly applauded, Mr. McBean. © Greg Prato /TiVo
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