Album Reviews

The Kissaway Trail – Sleep Mountain

(Bella Union) UK release date: 8 March 2010

You’re teetering on the precipice and, for a moment, you’re sure you’ll fall headlong. But just as your balance shifts over the void, and your windmilling arms have all but given up, a gust of wind gives you just enough of a push to set you back on right footing. That moment – somewhere between the emotional extremes of despair and sudden, miraculous reconciliation-with-the-world fantastic – has a soundtrack.

Sleep Mountain, the second long-player from The Kissaway Trail, finds the Danish quintet embracing the more sweeping aspects of rock ‘n’ roll emotional grandeur. And, in large part, they succeed marvellously. Sleep Mountain is the sort of record that makes a good band great, and given their current trajectory, The Kissaway Trail have set their sights on becoming all but iconic.

Sleep Mountain is all loping arena beats, washing ambient noises, biting guitars and church bells. Lead vocalist Thomas Fagerlund is a cross between Biffy Clyro‘s Simon Neil and Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler. He often comes off with a scruffy charm and a whispered mix of bravado and frantic longing. And with Peter Katis (Interpol, The National, The Twilight Sad) producing, the achieved effect is often sublime in its intricate interplay between broad strokes and microcosmic detail.

The music is powerful and emotive, and the band often find meaning in the subtleties, teasing nuanced threads from otherwise straightforward arrangements. Here, a snatch of drumming, looped chaotically, there a wheezing keyboard tone, there again, the whispered half-truth as in Friendly Fire: “We don’t care about them.” It’s got all the raw energy of Bruce Springsteen without sounding like Bruce Springsteen.

The album’s opener SDP is the sort of rock ‘n’ roll song that makes people fall in love. Its big arena drums and cinematic church bell opening share time with a brisk and galloping indie rock section with all the emotional weightlessness of Matt Pond PA‘s Halloween or Arcade Fire’s Wake Up.

New Year opens as a swaying processional with choir chanting and hammered dulcimers. Beat Your Heartbeat whispers: “When you feel like you’re all alone, don’t go too far away where the evening song won’t come, because they will beat your heartbeat.” While the lyric, about “pleasure in the sun,” may come across as overly sentimental, or even downright earnest, The Kissaway Trail get away with it, primarily on the overwhelming merit of the album’s unflinching dedication to its form and function.

New Lipstick is new wave sensibilities re-channelled for a new generation of Molly Ringwolds. Enemy opens with seeming discord, but eventually builds into a crawlingly slow chant: “You have friends, but they’re all gone.”

Three Million Hours brings it all home with the raw emotional power of Solsbury Hill or Life In A Northern Town, with a rare slide guitar solo, whistling, and stomping drums. And while the closer Three Million Hours warns, “There is danger, and they’re here again,” Sleep Mountain’s message is one of jubilant hope and rare optimism in a dark and troubled post-rock world.

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More on The Kissaway Trail
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The Kissaway Trail – Sleep Mountain
Interview: The Kissaway Trail
The Kissaway Trail – The Kissaway Trail
The Kissaway Trail @ 93 Feet East, London