Common Prayer - There Is A Mountain

Antonio Rowe 20/07/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

Experimentation - the music industry's very own double edged sword - is a paradox, if you will, widely encouraged by critics and an assumed signification of a band or artist's confidence. However, if done incorrectly it could possibly result in some of those once encouraging critics now slating said artistic exploration as 'self-indulgent' and 'bizarre', par exampler MGMT's recent release Congratulations, which was released to a rather mixed reception by critics this April.

Luckily, for most artists these are the type of creative problems they endure, while trying to get over the unavoidable predicament that is creating 'the second album'. But, as there is for most rules, there are exceptions. Enter Common Prayer - Jason Russo to his parents - whose debut There Is A Mountain is an ode to care-free experimentation (although not the Pink Floyd-esque psychedelic kind of his former outfits Mercury Rev and Hopewell). This type of experimentation is an array jam-packed with instruments and sounds thrown together, with the objective being to create an inventive and fresh sonic; this being a myriad of mandolins, spoken word bible quotes, repetitive drum beats, preppy (although occasionally sad) lyrics, wistful melodies and yearning vocals.

It's fair to say this is an album that covers a plethora of musical genres and tastes. There's upbeat nu-folk stomper 'Sara G' that gives Mumford & Sons a run for their money. Then there's the eerie-yet-captivating harmonious intro on 'American Sex', in addition to the piano-led musicality of 'Moneyspider'. All of the above may appear to be polar opposites on paper yet when it all comes together (somehow, unbeknownst to me), it forms an excitably varied yet cohesive debut. Regardless to say, it's not what you nor I would call an easy first listen but, with some love and labour, hidden alt.pop gems like 'Us Vs. Them' begin to emerge from the woodwork.