Some albums are just best listened to alone. Find yourself a quiet environment, be it a bedroom or an uncrowded park, and strap on the ‘ol headphones while you mentally “check out” for awhile to enjoy the music. If you choose the right record for the situation, the results can be transcendent and revealing. On the flip side of that coin, you can completely ruin an album if you listen to it in the wrong context. Such is the case with the new album from the East Coast trio of ladies known as Mountain Man. Their second album (the first with halfway decent distribution) is titled “Made the Harbor”, and it demands a silent room and a calm demeanor to be fully appreciated.
At first glance, Mountain Man has the sound of a female version of Fleet Foxes. They’re all folk melodies and intense, 3-part harmonies. When Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Erin Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig put their voices together, beauty happens of the highest order. They’re so confident in that, many of the songs on “Made the Harbor” are performed completely a capella. When there are instruments, an acoustic guitar or two is about all you’re going to get, but that’s really all you need. It’s rather exciting to have songs so sparsely composed yet sounding so rich and refined. More than anything else, the album feels like a throwback to the all-girl groups of the 1950’s, when times were far different and more innocent than they are today. The lyrics are also pretty old fashioned as well, talking about animals, nature and young maidens. Helping to complete that portrait is the fact that the album was recorded at an abandoned ice cream parlor from the early 20th century. And even smarter was the move to produce it completely roughshod, leaving in all the little imperfections that come with avoiding a traditional studio. So if you listen carefully you’ll hear the occasional shuffle of feet or background noise. It’s relentlessly charming and austere, which is part of what makes it so unique and worthwhile in today’s digital age.
Perhaps the best thing about “Made the Harbor” is how timeless it is. The album could just as easily have been a “lost recording” from the past just recently discovered as much as it is something that was made yesterday. These girls know how to write a compelling folk song that can stick with you if you let it. Of course that partly requires the ability to sit still and give this record your attention and patience. This isn’t an album for everybody, and it runs into the occasional problem of a song feeling only half finished, but for those who can fully appreciate the sweet siren call of Mountain Man, it’s the sort of delight that only comes around once in a blue moon.