This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.
It is rare to find an album that starts up an instant relationship with its listeners. Hello, Mountain’s Transcend — dropping January 4 — does just that. The Denver-based trio — consisting of Stephen Pamas, Jack Falk and Patrick Smith — brings a newness to an often oversaturated genre of music by maintaining the underlying gloominess of indie-rock while also managing to create a space of innovation worth listening to on repeat.
Transcend is a comeback of sorts for Hello, Mountain who took a year off to find a replacement for their previous drummer. The band’s inner communication is more cohesive and impressive than ever with newcomer Smith filling the vacancy. Nothing exemplifies this newfound unity more than “Moving” — a reluctant love song with guitar and percussion that is reminiscent of early Death Cab for Cutie. “Rewind” delves more into the dreamy, ethereal aspects of indie-rock relying on distortion and Pamas’ raw vocals. Perhaps Hello, Mountain’s new triage is the inspiration for such a diverse sound, resulting in an album that is both well rounded and achingly vulnerable.
“Face You Know” — the first single off Transcend — is a high-energy track that continues to expand the band’s new sound. It showcases the band’s strengths and invites listeners who otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled upon their music to give them a second glance. “The Window” — their album opener and second single released December 14 — delves deeper into Pamas’ ability to tell stories by recounting the instance when someone shot at him and his fiancé through their apartment window. Pamas lays into a powerful falsetto — taking the trauma of the event and packaging it as a chilling love song. The effect is clearly rewarding as the portrait of the band continues to deepen and change throughout the track list.
Where “Face You Know” and “The Window” shine, “Futures” and “Wasting It Right” fall behind. Although still sonically strong, the lyricism misses the mark and many of the production choices seem a bit deterring. However, it could be argued that their choices are leaps of bravery that may result in more interest than expected. Taking artistic chances is part of the process and often times leaves a larger mark than playing it safe.
This seven-track album has very few hiccups and ends on a perfect note with “The End” — arguably the strongest song on the EP. Pamas tackles the indefinite universe when he lyrically alludes to an astronaut trying to find a grip on reality. This vulnerability manages to resonate personally and creates a space between the track and the listener unique to powerful moments of mutual understanding.
As Hello, Mountain gets closer to their January 4 album release date their message remains the same. They wanted to create music that reached outward. Pamas found his solace in writing songs about pushing beyond your doubt and moving forward. Their hope was that through these songs the audience would feel the same positivity and motivation. Their music deserves to be heard and appreciated for what it successfully aims to achieve. In a world of uncertainty, there is comfort in an unspoken contract — and Transcend delivers on its end of the deal.