Release Date: May 5, 2009
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Yet another solid offering from Vancouver's Stephen McBean. The guy's on fire. Pink Mountaintops' third album lulls and never lags. While the 70s psychedelic and classic rock influences in his other project, Black Mountain, have instant appeal, it's less obvious what makes Pink Mountaintops - his gentler, more cerebral band - work so well.
“How deep is your love?”A heavily chained “Unchained” melody, Axis: Thrones Of Love is the slow aural psych-pop gem that sets off Outside Love, singer Stephen McBean’s dysfunctional heart swelling lament, chemically soaked in Leary-ian utopia. Pink Mountaintops, side-project of Black Mountain frontman McBean, unites a heap of his Canadian/indie music peers and Black Mountain coconspirators in an effort to aid in his exper-romantic vision, the velvet swaddled novel on Outside Love’s cover as amusing as it is appropriate. With somewhat of a lean toward the sonic panes of Kevin Shields, the Velvet Underground and Phil Spector, a mostly blossomed 60s throwback nature come calling, Outside Love seems not so much about making love as it does about aching love, its heart’s blood pooling around Cupid’s arrow.
Can Stephen McBean do anything wrong? His intense lyrics and guitar fuel the monster psych drone that is Black Mountain -- Pink Moutaintops was originally just a side project. As Outside Love and his previous two releases under the moniker have proven, it's much more than that. Joined by a slew of musical friends from Black Mountain, Jackie O Motherfucker, SunnO))) and others, McBean uses Outside Love to focus on the harsh and sweaty aspects of love.
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.
Black Mountain side-project returns with an obsessive ode to unrequited love Since the topic of love is the most widely used and abused theme in all of pop music, Pink Mountaintops’ Stephen McBean can be forgiven for poking a little fun at his ten-song study in romantic melodrama by using Danielle Steele worthy romance-novel artwork on the album cover. But despite his attempt at levity, Outside Love is not a light-hearted affair, with ugly accusations and frustrated pleas making its references to vampires, devils, and rotting appendages seem understated by comparison. If these songs add up to a love story, it’s not the sort that’s likely to turn up in a supermarket checkout line paperback any time soon.
Vancouver's Stephen McBean may be better known as the principal songwriter and frontman for the gritty psych outfit Black Mountain, but he also leads that group's gentler counterpart, Pink Mountaintops. Though Pink Mountaintops was originally conceived as a solo project, McBean clearly thrives in a collaborative environment. The project's third album, Outside Love, features input from an impressive cast of indie rock staples such as Sophie Trudeau of Godspeed You! Black Emperor/A Silver Mt.
Pitting Stephen McBean’s two bands, Pink Mountaintops and Black Mountain, against each other, it’s apparent that the latter is his foundation and the former its smaller offshoot. Not only does it fit the images, with one merely a fraction of the other, but it also falls in line with critical response. Sure, both bands are oft-praised, but Black Mountain gets far more attention than Pink Mountaintops.
Curious concinnity, this: on the same day that Stephin Merritt collaborator LD Beghtol puts out his new album, Stephen McBean from Black Mountain chooses to have a stab at his own (digested) 69 Love Songs. Pink Mountaintops might have a dozen other influences - especially Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell - but as an exercise in milking the humour from schmaltzy pastiches of various genres (as backing to ironically melodramatic / Gothic lyrics), it’s hard not to come back to the Magnetic Fields comparison. The sound is a dense, fuzz-drenched, Noughties take on Phil Spector - occasionally "lush" with chamber-orchestration, or syrupy where it nods to Nashville-style Country, or Hawaiian music.
Last time out, reviewing Pink Mountaintops’ Axis of Evol, Dusted’s Emerson Dameron described a much improved, more consistent effort, “the first record [Stephen McBean has] made that can be heard front-to-back, repeatedly, without losing most of its shine.” Outside Love, two years later, is another solid effort with a handful of quite good songs – and only a few embarrassing ones. It’s also the record that lifts McBean’s lo-fi Black Mountain side project out of its home-recorded, self-referential box. A good half of these songs are fully, even elaborately arranged, with big booming drums, piano, strings and backup singers.
Peaches Vulgarity has always had a place in popular music, but usually not as special a place as it does for Peaches. “I Feel Cream” (XL), this electroclash heroine’s new album, features the usual cornucopia of carnal boasts and hard-strobing beats, flagrantly deployed. “Never go to bed ….