Mountains Like Wax is a band that has crossed my path via recommendations and Spotify’s Release Radar. So, count me surprised to find that the band’s latest effort, Before There Was Plenty, is in fact their first proper full album. How much of this is creative restraint versus marketing strategy is unknown, but a full-length is certainly welcome from a band whose previous offerings never failed to impress.
Mountains Like Wax arguably falls under the indie pop category, similar to The 1975, The Band Camino, TREY, and Bleachers. There’s guitar helping move things around – a sign of hope that machines have not enslaved the human race just yet. Suffice to say, this is a healthy mix of indie-whatever that is neither overly flashy nor too heady. This record is thoughtful, fun, and even nostalgic at times. There are even hints of a bit of emo influence tossed in, giving the lyrics a sort of edge that distinguishes them from more single-lane pop acts.
As you might expect, the production is top-notch and lush. Vocal processing, layers, and guitar tone are polished and will stand out to a seasoned listener immediately. To the casual audience, these things might go unnoticed simply due to expectation. There’s a certain standard for albums these days when it comes to production, and even if someone can’t articulate quite what they like, it’s because they’re become used to music that is well-produced.
Before There Was Plenty is sensitive. Its dynamic range never deviates far from some sense of longing, and this story is told musically through hazy, meandering guitar parts and lethargic vocals. If that sounds boring on paper, rest assured it’s anything but. It’s the power of the exhausted voice, the one worn out from shouting or crying but still chooses to continue to speak. The two “A Lover’s Plea” tracks encapsulate this mood, and the added female guest vocals are like a secret weapon. Something as simple as two voices at once has a profound level of artistry and is easily one of the tightest parts of the album. Oh, but did I mention the guest is Julien Baker? That alone should say something about the credibility Mountains Like Wax have (and again, my suspicions of their emo influences).
But wait, there’s more. Billy Mays himself would have a field day, noting that the orchestral instrumentation on several tracks gives the band even more musical colors to paint vivid images of loss and hope. In short, it’s beautiful.
Choosing several tracks to represent this album was a challenge – there are many consecutive highlights, and they stand out for all sort of different reasons. Needless to say, this is a balanced record and most assuredly the crown jewel of Mountains’ discography. You may not be familiar with Mountains Like Wax, but this is a good a time as any to get acquainted.