Against the hair-raising backdrop of the Black Mountains, enclosed within the parameters of a small, packed out beer garden, what was a lively, somewhat rowdy crowd of festival goers has fallen silent. Plastic pint glasses, raised, are left to hover near open mouths; all conceited talk of obscure bands has ceased. Three unassuming girls from Vermont whose shy self-introduction went largely unnoticed have begun their performance, and they’d like everyone to know about it. This is Mountain Man. All tousled hair and creased shirts, they seem unlikely sources of such pure, powerful melodies. Yet singing mostly a cappella, with occasional help from a gentle acoustic guitar, their unspoilt harmonies inspire a stillness that is almost spiritual.
The setting was accidental. They were supposed to play Greenman’s main stage, but a delay meant that the girls performed their music to a much more intimate venue. But in recordings, that intimacy with the listener still remains. Made The Harbor, their first and only album feels entirely organic, as though its music and lyrics occurred naturally. It’s one of those rare albums where every track is as good as the last. Listening to it again as I’m writing, I keep flitting between favourites. Each has a charm, a slick lyric or a stunning harmony that makes the album so exciting. “Animal Tracks” is a poignant, pining love song that could have easily been composed around a campfire; “River”, a meandering, howling hymn, contemporary yet traditional that explores the dexterity of the human voice; “How’m I Doin’”, a cheeky refrain creating a refreshing distraction from the raw emotion of “Dog Song”.
What really shines through though is the girls’ own enjoyment of their music. It oozes through their recordings, just as it does on stage, making Made the Harbor a joyous listen. On their recent tour with Feist as backing vocalists, their enthusiasm became a focal point of her set. These girls are nothing but themselves. Their ability to entertain an audience with hilarious dance routines and goofy presence is quirky and endearing. Their vocal chemistry is musical perfection: this three piece is so in tune with itself that when it experiments with genre boundaries it generates a sound so unlike anything else it seems unearthly.
Made The Harbor is the sort of album everyone should have in their car/iPod/Walkman (if you’re particularly hip). It’s soul music. It’s whole music. It’s growing up music. It’s moving on music. It’s the sort of music that makes it a travesty that there’s been no new album since 2010. Wherever, whenever you listen to them, Mountain Man, the three girls from Vermont, will make sure you shut up and listen.
Beci Moss is a student at Edinburgh University. She studies French and Philosophy. She is Welsh. She is also a huge fan of Iggy Azalea – although if we’re honest she thinks that now Azalea’s hit the mainstream it’s unlikely that she’ll reach the heights of My World and Pu$$y. Pu$$y was great – wasn’t it?
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