It’s taken London-based five-piece Treetop Flyers a while to get round to releasing their first album. They’ve been around since 2009 and won the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition back in 2011. But after listening to The Mountain Moves, it’s clear that the band have been biding their time, honing their sound and polishing their songwriting in order to make a record that fulfils their considerable potential. Their patience seems to have paid off on what’s surely one of the most accomplished, engaging debuts of 2013 to date.
From the shimmering opening chords and infectious guitar jangle of opener Things Will Change, it’s obvious Treetop Flyers are a band with huge confidence in their own ability, steeped in the musical heritage of classic American rock but with enough poise and ideas of their own to sidestep mere pastiche. In just over four minutes, Things Will Change goes on to showcase all the elements that make The Mountain Moves so enjoyable – the effortless vocal harmonies, the fluid, incisive guitar solos of Laurie Sherman and, perhaps above all else, the achingly soulful voice of lead singer Reid Morrison.
Waiting On You is another early highlight, with the languid groove of Fleetwood Mac when they were still a blues band combining with a breezy, radio-friendly melody that’s pure Eagles, while Rose Is In The Yard sees Morrison really flex his vocal chords like a young Rod Stewart. She’s Gotta Run is a little less successful, lacking as it does the subtlety of the Flyers’ better songs with its rather bland chorus, but they’re right back on form immediately afterwards with Haunted House, a slow burning, atmospheric epic that draws pleasing parallels with the best work of My Morning Jacket.
The incomparable Neil Young is evidently another key influence on the group and the sprawling yet mesmerising Making Time and Storm Will Pass effectively evoke the spirit of the celebrated Canadian’s more ragged early Crazy Horse outings. The quality does dip a little overall towards the end of the record’s second half, yet even by the excellent standards of much of what’s gone before, closing track Was It Worth It is an absolute gem.
The only fully acoustic performance on The Mountain Moves, it would fit seamlessly onto either of the universally lauded Fleet Foxes’ albums, so beautifully does it blend its intricate folk guitar playing with the Flyers’ soaring, hymnal group harmonies. Even at this nascent stage of their career, it’s hard to think of another British band that could have recorded a song quite like this, so purely does it distil the musical essence of the American West Coast.
With such a plethora of musical touchstones from across the Atlantic, it’s hard to believe at times that the Treetop Flyers are based in London rather than Laurel Canyon, with drummer and State University of New York graduate Tomer Danan providing their only direct connection to the country that inspires and inhabits almost every note of The Mountain Moves. In less skilled, less ambitious hands, this record could have been derivative and hackneyed. Instead it is an unqualified triumph for a young band who, with a little luck, should go on to achieve widespread acclaim in years to come.