Words by James Attwood / Pics courtesy of Sonic PR
After an eight year break spent gathering musical influence from the mellow mundane of real life, Howie Payne is back with his self professed ‘best record so far’.
The result of this is Mountain, Payne‘s second solo LP since the dissipation of his previous band The Stands in 2005, which is set for release on the 27th October on Full Stack Records. Recording sessions took place at London’s prestigious Ark Studios during final week of July, whilst the rest of the UK witnessed a heatwave. This in mind, Payne and band still slaved away ruthlessly to produce a well crafted songwriter album, and if anything this added to the atmosphere of the album.
The influence of Americana and the great American songwriters of the 70’s is apparent throughout Mountain. However, this does not necessarily mean that the album sounds dated or appeals solely to the older generations.
Album opener ‘Quick as the Moon’ is reminiscent of the heartfelt, earthy folk-pop of modern artists such as Fleet Foxes and Father John Misty. With its several layers of vocal harmonies, tambourine and subtle upright piano melodies, ‘Quick as the Moon’ lends itself effortlessly to the Americana/Folk genres, as is the case for other tracks ‘All of these things’ and ‘Hold steady the Wire’. The vocal harmonies heard throughout Mountain assist Payne‘s songwriter style arrangements in escalating into grandiose chorus’, similar to those of innovators such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
‘Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer’ is driving by ballsy country guitars and could easily be a single by Neil Young back in his heyday. In a time of synthesisers and programming it’s nice to hear an album that utilises predominantly organic instruments and in particular, the human voice. “But you’re quick like a hurricane, bright like a rising sun…” shows Payne‘s mastery of imagery within his lyricism, alongside his clear knack for arrangement and composition.
Lead single ‘The Brightest Star’ is the most commercial moment of the album, with its blend of piano hooks, strummed acoustic parts and shuffle drumbeats that form a clear pop structure and four chord chorus.
But if it’s the lazy rootsy-Americana of Gold-era Ryan Adams that you seek, you will also find plenty to occupy yourself with on ‘Holding on’, a love song that floats along steady and shows Payne‘s band at their finest.
The story is much the same for both ‘High Times’ and ‘After Tonight’. Here Howie Payne is accompanied solely by his acoustic guitar, yet the songs are as engaging as those that surround it. ‘After Tonight’ also provides an effective moment of solitude on the album, whilst ‘Thoughts on Thoughts’ is a modern folk number using traditional guitar melodies to create hooks and layers of harmonised vocal to add an almost medieval sound to the music.
Then, finally, we have ‘Evangeline (Los Angeles)’ – a grand, perfect summary to Mountain, combining layers of vocals once more, yet reverberating electric guitar parts that provide the sonic backdrop for tender picked acoustic guitar.
All in all, Mountain is a joyous and pleasant listen. And although its genre is arguably dated, and some may say holds little relevance to today’s popular music climate, the album is still intriguing to the ear of someone who appreciates music at its core; Mountain carries a wholly organic and refreshing sound. Plus, as I have already mentioned, Howie Payne‘s use of his own voice to create layers of texture brings an entirely different edge to his music – this is also to be applauded and hooked me upon listening.
With an album as well crafted in every respect of the word such as Mountain, Payne fully deserves a place up there with the great songwriters of today.
‘The Brightest Star’ – Howie Payne
Mountain, by Howie Payne, is released on 27th October via Full Stack Records. For more on Howie Payne, including online album sales and live gig dates, visit www.soundcloud.com/howiepayne
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