Moving Mountains sounds like TV music.
That’s not an insult; it’s just an acknowledgement of the fact that more so than their previous two albums, Moving Mountains’ self-titled release sounds like a collection of needle drops for a network drama. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why the album sounds this way. Maybe it’s because the guitars lack grit, or maybe it’s because more than ever, Moving Mountains has gone for a wall-of-sound approach. Whatever the case, Moving Mountains is a strange release, a deliberate shift away from the high-energy post-hardcore of Waves to something that can more fittingly be called “post-rock.” Does that shift work? Well…yes, but with a few caveats.
Let it never be said that Moving Mountains doesn’t know how to craft beautiful songs. Moving Mountains’ tracks twist and snake with shimmering, syncopated riffs. Bells and piano give the songs a sense of fragility, while the bass subtly lies underneath, playing just enough notes to support the entire enterprise. Opener “Swing Set” and closer “Apsides” are downright pretty, with latter’s guitar line in the coda sounding absolutely gorgeous.
But as beautiful as Moving Mountains can sound, it doesn’t have much in the way of melody. Now, let’s be clear: that’s a perfectly valid approach to take when it comes to making an album. But it’s also one that unfortunately makes Moving Mountains unmemorable; it all blurs together in a formless harmonic murk, because there’s not too much variety across the album’s nine tracks. Not helping matters is the fact that so many of these tracks lack shape and direction, with “Hands” being the most egregious offender; it never really builds up or goes anywhere, and then it just ends. Songs shouldn’t just be a series of musical statements; they’re supposed to be musical stories.
Not that the band’s lyrics would have much to say, even if Moving Mountains were telling stories. The lyrics on this album are absolutely banal – not terrible enough to be funny, not good enough to be memorable – just full of vague platitudes that don’t really seem to mean anything. Moreover, singer Gregory Dunn delivers them without any fire or passion, discarding his trademark snarl for something approximating a croon.
There’s also a severe lack of energy on the album. At times, it sounds positively lethargic. The band manages to recapture the energy of its previous releases in the closing of “Seasonal” and the opening of “Hudson,” but for the most part, Moving Mountains is a subdued, often sluggish affair.
All of this probably makes Moving Mountains seem terrible. It’s not. Like I said, it’s a beautiful album, even utterly gorgeous at times, like during the overlapping vocals in “Eastern Leaves” or the verses in “Burn Pile.” In fact, if you sit back and let the album just wash over you without paying much attention, then it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s perfect for background music while working on other tasks, and as I mentioned in the introduction, it’s full of the kind of songs that would work well in the background of TV dramas.
What this means is that as well-crafted and beautiful as Moving Mountains can be, it’s not a challenging album. It’s basically Coldplay-meets-Explosions-in-the-Sky. For boundary-pushing post-rock, you’d do well to look elsewhere, say Sigur Rós or Balance and Composure, or heck, even Moving Mountains’ previous output. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go rock out to “Alleviate.”