Review Summary: RICHMOND TRIPLE FEATURE: 3
Pygmy Lush's 'Bitter River' was an interesting release in 2007. The most polarizing part of the record was how strange the material was. Where Chris Taylor would sometimes fully embrace his Tom Waits influence there were other times when the music of the group would sound even heavier than pg.99. Also, somehow on the record the group had somehow showed off how much they enjoy Elliott Smith and Birchville Cat Motel. Luckily 'Mount Hope' isn't that scatter brained. The group does delve into rockabilly and drones a few times, but overall this record seems to establish the softer folky sound that Pygmy Lush is going for. The sound is somewhere between the aforementioned Elliott Smith and Neil Young with the group taking strong melodic points from Smith and coming of as Young with their incorporation of lush electric guitar touches. Tracks like 'Frozen Man' and 'Tumor' clearly evoke a dedication to early Iron & Wine and other pitchforkmedia.com folk darlings, but Pygmy Lush manages to make 'Mount Hope' sound not like a hardcore band playing folk rather just a solid somewhat different folk record.
'Mount Hope's' most successful track is opener 'Asphalt'. A calmly orchestrated acoustic guitar track with a nice snare backing that is accented by Chris Taylor's deeply effected vocals. The song basically features what sounds like two looped acoustic guitars for its entirety that almost echo Ben Chansy's finger picking style. Where 'Bitter River' had extremely mournful acoustic tracks, 'Asphalt' is bright sounding. Lyrically it still represents the darkness that has begun to become associated with the group, yet it isn't as ominous as 'Bitter River'. Tracks like 'Send Bombs' seemed to represent a disconnected sadness where 'Asphalt' is simply reminiscing about lost,
'i'm sleeping in a basement;
it's cold and undusted.
the pictures are hanging
all my walls like a guillotine.
i know you know there is nowhere.
laying down here trying to think of nothing,
i know you know there is nowhere to go.'
pymgy lush - 'asphalt'
A strength of 'Mount Hope' is although its feeling is essentially the same through its entirety the way the band makes you feel that way is not always the same. 'Red Room Blues' is a mammoth of a track with its length being just over eight minutes. Beneath mumbles of 'the bottles collecting old dust like trophies.' and other such personal images Pygmy Lush slowly builds soft blissful drones that eventually overtake the entire track. It is a beautiful technique that Six Organs of Admittance somewhat explored, but Pygmy Lush is much more simple and blissful in their delivery of acoustics counter pointed with noise. 'Red Room Blues' is immediately followed by the Tom Waits devoted 'Mount Hope' and Pygmy Lush's more eccentric nature comes out. The rockabilly territory that 'Mount Hope' represents is also revisited later on the album with the track 'Butch's Dream'.
‘Mount Hope’ sees Pygmy Lush at their most peaceful. Gone are the outbursts of screams and palm muted power chords. As the band has essentially been touring as a loud and soft entity, one assumes their next record will be entirely loud. While, I am excited it is kind of disappointing to think that the group will not revisit the beautiful sounds they did in making ‘Mount Hope’. Perhaps that adds to the intimate impact of ‘Mount Hope’ as it does feel like something that could’ve just been cast into any of the member’s closets. If one thing can be said about ‘Mount Hope’ it is certainly the most sincere record made by the members involved and that is saying something considering the alumni.