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Pink Mountaintops - Outside Love

Released on Jagjaguwar, 5/5/09

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Stephen McBean, perhaps best known for his contributions as lead singer, songwriter and guitarist to the Vancouver-based rock band Black Mountain, has a sensitive side and he is not afraid to show it. But fear not children, I am not talking about whiney, nasal, voice-quavering emotional songs wearing skinny pants. I am talking about quality sensitivity. Delicate songwriting. Organic emotion.

Formed in 2004, Pink Mountaintops is a more introspective and reflective approach to conquering the indie rock kingdom when compared to the powerhouse that be Black Mountain. A ten-song homage to life, love, and regret Outside Love is reflective of the old crooner ballads of the mid-century while still managing to maintain that modern folk-rock tone that is oh-so-very popular at the moment.

Apparently influenced by “…weddings in Montreal, winter, Pink Floyd's The Final Cut, Christmas albums, that one Exile song and that one Echo and the Bunnymen song, the Bermuda Triangle, being depressed in the sunshine, people who haven't made out yet but will in the future, The Everly Brothers, clowns in the ceilings, and bedrooms where skinheads used to live”, and with a large list of co-contributors, Outside Love certainly wears a coat of many colors.

From the Ravonettes-esque opening track, “Axis: Thrones of Love” to the Yo La Tengo- like and stunningly beautiful drone dirge of “While We Were Dreaming” to the Smog-ish “And I Thank You”, one of the reasons I think this album is so easy on the ears is because of the familiarity it carries from note to note and beat to beat. Ashley Webber (Bonnie Prince Billy) sings with McBean on each track, adding a velvety clarity and crisp brightness to the spatial immensity and reckless expanse of each song. Their voices together counter the flighty tendencies of the compositions and soar off into the solar system, joined in joyous and youthful abandon.

Overall Outside Love is a strong release, familiar in theme, structure and sound and will do well in a market that seems so recently and unwaveringly enamored with the softer side of rock and roll. Get out the tissues; let us feel our way through this life together.