The development over the past half decade or so of independently released albums finding widespread blog support and wider audiences has resulted in many of these emerging artists getting picked up by larger labels. With that comes the opportunity for their music to be re-released with a much larger scale of distribution and publicity, sometimes even propelling the artist into the indie spotlight. Off the top of my head I can think of this happening to 3 records I’ve played a (small) part in championing here on PHW. Of course there’s Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, which was picked up by Jagjaguwar last year after moderate success on a much smaller label in 2007. Around the same time A.A. Bondy’s terrific American Hearts was picked up by Fat Possum, and recently Titus Andronicus’ The Airing Of Grievances found a new home with XL Recordings. Each is an album very worthy of the extra attention bestowed upon it after its “discovery”.
The reason I mention this is because I think it’s just a matter of time before the same good fate befalls Staten Island’s Cymbals Eat Guitars. Their excellent debut, Why There Are Mountains, has already garnered heaps of online praise (including Best New Music honors from you-know-who), and seems to be steadily turning up in more and more noteworthy blog features. With the hype machine firmly getting their backs, it seems inevitable that before long the guys in Cymbals Eat Guitars will be signing their names on the dotted lines too.
The album itself makes a strong case of the influence of the 90’s indie-rock scene of the Pacific Northwest on today‘s young bands. It’s been said before, but clearly Why There Are Mountains shares its sense of slapdash grandiosity with classic albums like The Lonesome Crowded West and Wowee Zowee, as well as the gradually evolving epics that marked Perfect From Now On - all touchstones of the 90s indie scene. They all possess the same sort of chaotic, disheveled sprawl that’s custom made for rolling down the windows and following the white lines for a couple hours.
Traditional verse-chorus-verse structure is rare among the 9 songs here. Instead the arrangements often veer and twist through multiple tempo, tone, and instrumental shifts, which only add to the album‘s distinct replay-ability. There’s nothing to get bored of because hardly anything repeats itself. The standard electric guitar clang and emotive vocals of Joseph Ferocious (ugh) are augmented by the occasional trumpet or barroom piano, which allow the songs some further diversity. Highlights include the mini-epic (and appropriately titled) opener “And The Hazy Sea”, the ghostly “What Dogs See”, and the warped indie-pop of “Indiana” and “Wind Phoenix”. With Pavement long since disbanded, and Modest Mouse and Built To Spill clearly on the downside of their careers, Cymbals Eat Guitars are worthy successors to their vintage indie-rock sound. Check ’em out.