Complete Mountain Almanac
Complete Mountain Almanac


4.3
superb

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
January 23rd, 2023 | 19 replies


Release Date: 01/27/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A song for all seasons

By way of introduction, Complete Mountain Almanac is a four-member collective whose genesis derives from the long-running friendship of Sweden-based singer-songwriter Rebekka Karijord and Italy-based poet Jessica Dessner. Once the pair conceived the idea of crafting a musical project together, Dessner’s musician brothers (Aaron and Bryce, both members of The National) also joined in to round out the group’s ranks.

While I generally do my best to avoid using the word “pretentious” in discussion of music, given it’s vastly overused, here’s my tacit acknowledgement that the word is not an unreasonable descriptor when discussing this group’s self-titled effort. Focused on a concept which attempts to fuse the universal and individual (specifically, the state of the planet amid the growing specter of climate change, alongside Jessica Dessner’s recent brush with breast cancer), this project is certainly ambitious. Add to that sweeping subject matter a twelve-song tracklist with each tune bearing the name of a month in the exact order of the calendar, and you’ve got yourself a self-consciously grandiose record which will likely either impress or crash and burn.

In this case, the artists deliver. Simply put, Complete Mountain Almanac is a triumph of musical beauty. Perhaps best described as sonically halfway between the dreamy feel of Jenny Hval’s Classic Objects and the airier side of Fleet Foxes’ Crack-Up, with a strong infusion of classical influences, it’s not the most high-energy affair, but proves to be a less sleepy effort than might be expected based on those comparisons. It’s an album whose calling card is warmth and feeling, but also feels just aloof enough to make a bold statement.

Individual tracks here all have their distinguishing features, but together they flow smoothly as a cohesive whole. Indeed, the most obvious complaint which could be lobbed at this album is that, given the “one month per song” conventions, there’s not really a seasonal feel which can be derived from different segments within the album’s runtime. Personally, though, it doesn’t bother me, with the results becoming a satisfying journey, even if it’s one disconnected from the cycle of solstices and equinoxes. Karijord’s vocals throughout are arguably the most critical element, always beautiful and often near-mesmerizing - particularly in the almost-angelic “March” or the minimal “July”. The lyrics, when intelligible, are strong, but function equally easily as just another pristine instrument. This isn’t an album solely reliant on a gorgeous voice, though. The sonorous ending of “January” echoes Scandinavian dark folk, the flitting guitar of “February” is delightfully catchy, “October” shimmers hypnotically, and “November” provides the rhythmic feel of a traditional dance, among plenty of other variations to be found within these tasteful musical arrangements.

Even while basking in the glow which follows the album’s fadeout (Karijord’s emotive voice soaring over the delicate plucking of a few strings to conclude “December”), I can acknowledge that Complete Mountain Almanac probably isn’t a release with the greatest possible appeal across a broad swath of listeners. For one thing, its chamber music/art pop/folk style is inherently mellow and rather reserved, not inclined towards a preponderance of moments which most people would describe as particularly “exciting”.Beyond that, this whole album, lyrically and otherwise, exudes vague and not-so-vague “hippie” vibes which will repel a certain type of music fan. Those caveats aside, though, this is a fantastic record, both sophisticated and personable, and one that I suspect will be well-loved by a niche audience. If the album’s description here intrigues you at all, Complete Mountain Almanac’s emergence is not to be missed.



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user ratings (12)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2023


4558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Album is out on Friday, Jan 27th.



My favorite 2023 release so far!

Cormano
January 23rd 2023


3802 Comments


interesting, by the way you describe it sounds like I'll be all over it, excited for friday

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
January 23rd 2023


3940 Comments


This sounds amazing, gonna have to check this out for sure. Great read as usual!

Purpl3Spartan
January 23rd 2023


4701 Comments


Nice writeup fam


WatchItExplode
January 25th 2023


10018 Comments


This feels like me

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2023


28867 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Enjoyed the read, Sunny, thanks, and that Hval reference sold me, will check it on friday!

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2023


4558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Thanks folks! Interested to hear your opinions on this one.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2023


28867 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is very nice, she has a great voice.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2023


28867 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah loved this, gonna hammer one song each month depending on the month we are in ;)

Jasdevi087
January 27th 2023


7307 Comments


fuck it, complete mountain almanac

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2023


49770 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this was nice and I'll probs return to it - dug Feb, Aug and Dec esp (though the rest of the second half was a little plain)



nice review too, although the second para confuses me a little; not sure what about this subject matter requires a (q elaborately phrased) disclaimer about pretentiousness before it's even been introduced, esp given how unobtrusive the lyrics are here? agree that the calendar naming comes off as extraneous though

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2023


4558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Woah, didn't take long to hit Best New Music!



Glad to see some other folks are digging this as well.'



Thanks for the feedback Johnny, you might be right. I think this does feel generally "pretentious", with the song titles being the most obvious signifier, but perhaps I devoted too much space to that thought.

WatchItExplode
January 27th 2023


10018 Comments


Well this is pastoral as all get out. I'm undecided overall

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2023


46785 Comments


like this so far. beginning of June is a little too close to hoax by taylor tho lmao

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2023


4558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Yeah, this seems like your kind of thing, Rowan.



Hadn't notice that regarding June, but will have to pay attention during my next spin, Aaron Dessner was involved in both projects, haha

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2023


46785 Comments


that's the only reason I mentioned it lmao, still it was nice to hear him put the piano away for a bit and just play guitar for most of this album

Jessica is the real star here though. actually find the lyrics on this pretty affecting

Sowing
Moderator
January 28th 2023


41891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not sure why but this gives me Bonny Light Horseman supergroup type vibes and it's largely boring to me, even though it's pleasant/inoffensive.



Great review though. Maybe this will grow once I let the lyrics sink in. As Rowan said, Jessica shines here.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2023


4558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Thanks Sowing!



I was hoping you'd dig this but wasn't entirely sure. Didn't really expect the Bonny Light Horseman comparison, not sure that I see it, but it's possible this will open up for you more with further spins.

Sowing
Moderator
January 28th 2023


41891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I might just need to hear this in the right setting. Certain songs here were quite stunning in their own right, I just couldn't immerse myself in whatever was trying to be accomplished by the atmosphere the way I so easily could with other recent folk classics like Green to Gold and ILYSM. Even if this isn't nearly on that level, I think I'll access more redeeming qualities on a 2nd/3rd spin.



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