Thursday, September 16th, 2010
The Space Of Your Mind
Review of Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart
Ryan Walter WagnerI had the opportunity/duty of thinking very hard about Black Mountain’s last album, 2008’s In The Future, when it was put on the Polaris Music Prize short list for that year and I was put on the grand jury. And while I respected the craftsmanship and scope of the record, I couldn’t quite take it and its big, vintage stoner-rock moves seriously enough to champion it and couldn’t get past the impression that it was a nudge-nudge kind of joke to the band as well. True or not, it’s what I felt in my gut and that was ultimately what I had to go with (and if you look at my notes from the jury process, you’ll see that my thoughts on Plants & Animals amounted to, “I want a cheeseburger”).
The just-released follow-up Wilderness Heart, however, doesn’t raise any such flags. It keeps most of the requisite ’70s touchstones that define Black Mountain – the chugging guitar riffs, sweeping organs and prevailing mood of dystopic science fiction ominousness – but if feels as though the sludgy, slow-motion haze that permeated Future has been lifted somewhat, and Heart finds the Vancouverites operating with eyes clearer and less dilated.
Added to their repertoire of reference points are some country stylings in the form of some more acoustic textures and more prominent interplay between Stephen McBean’s drawl and Amber Webber’s twang. Putting their voices on a more equal footing establishes them as the band’s greatest strength and gives those who glazed over during their more proggish excursions something to sink their ears into. And for those who liked Black Mountain exactly the way they were, there’s still a goodly amount of rock action, it’s just delivered in more concise packages. There’s almost a temptation to call Wilderness Heart a pop record, but that’s going a bit too far – it’s still a rock record through and through with plenty of opportunities for headbanging – just be prepared to sway for extended periods of time as well.
Billboard talks to Neil Young and Daniel Lanois about Young’s new record Le Noise, out September 28. The first sample of the record is available via a new video and… it’s not what you might expect. Unless you expected something really weird and looped, in which case it’s pretty much exactly what you expected.
Video: Neil Young – “Angry World”
The Walrus ties a bit of a sensationalistic title to an otherwise decent article some of the background, ideals and realities of the Polaris Music Prize, the fifth of which is being awarded next Monday night. eye also ponders the credibility and the debates about the credibility of the award. Chart, meanwhile, handicaps this year’s nominees.