Label: Bella Union Release date: 01/03/10 Website: Official Myspace 2007 saw the Danish distant cousin of Arcade Fire release their stunning and uplifting self-titled debut album to a largely unsuspecting audience, especially in the UK. Now 2010 has rolled around and with it, their eagerly anticipated follow up Sleep Mountain. Second albums are always difficult propositions, and this latest LP was always going to have difficulty topping the best bits of their first. Does it lull you into a stupor or scale new heights? For those with one ear facing Scandinavia but new to this particular quartet, it’ll come as no surprise that their sound is atmospheric, wistful, and filled with those peculiar moments of effortless fragility that seems so endemic to the best Scandi exports right now. In broad strokes, Sleep Mountain however is a slower burning record to their first, more contemplative and with less rousing chants, radio-friendly hooks and nonsensical lyrics about musical equations. ‘New Year’ in fact is almost Mew-esque in its lilting, wordless harmonies but quickly resorts, and for the first time on the album (this track three), to their signature sound; keening vocals, insistent beats and a sense of languorous, pensive optimism. It’s a perfect example of Kissaway Trail’s mastery of a sense of grandeur, whilst avoiding seeming flamboyant. Far from being underwhelming, the stand out highpoint of the album is virtually bang in the middle: ‘Beat Your Heartbeat’. It’s breathy, possessed of the kind of melody that is memorable and still elusive; it’s simply constructed, is strangely lacking in any major dynamic shift, and yet the subtleties keep the insistent chant of ‘they will beat your heartbeat‘ lapping against your own, perfectly in time, until you find yourself swaying, absorbed. If you don’t, it’s probably for want of an actual heartbeat to begin with.
That’s not to say the album as a whole is without its shortcomings. If you give in to it, you’ll be gripped, but if you’re not initially won over it will do little throughout it’s length to throw up surprises, to make you think twice. The Kissaway Trail, more so perhaps on this latest effort, are more than happy to indulge in their own musical milieu. There are tracks such as ‘New Lipstick‘ that could be said to falter in the wake of earlier songs for lack of texture variance or distinguishing riffs. That said, these latter tracks remain part of a broader, album wide vision where the S/T was more disjointed in favour of peaks and troughs. Sleep Mountain has a higher baseline though does lack the fist-pumping ecstasy of ‘La La Song’. That said, it’s hard to find fault in any individual song in isolation. The Kissaway Trail’s return is triumphant, if you let it be. It’s a welcoming, lush embrace that to some extent waits for you to enter into it rather than forcing itself upon you. Søren and Thomas’ distinctive deal-attack vocals are more assured now, but crucially the band has retained the somewhat starry eyed, swaying vibrancy that sets them apart from so many contemporaries. Sleep Mountain is gorgeous upon first listen, rewarding on revisits. There really is no telling how far you can follow The Kissaway Trail; whatever, it’s a seriously, highly recommended journey. Photobucket