TDP Review: Moving Mountains (self-titled)

For fans of: Gates, Thrice, Balance and Composure


As artists progress in their careers, many choose to self-title a record, signifying a creative change, or to express how this creative change represents everything they have worked for thus far. The New York-based band Moving Mountains has done just that. In their follow-up to 2011’s post-hardcore album “Waves,” Moving Mountains returns with their final release before an indefinite hiatus. On this self-titled LP, released this past September on Triple Crown Records, Moving Mountains expresses such a creative change with clarity of vision and precise execution. The band has written a record that can be described as none other than “a Moving Mountains record.”

If there were ever a band less guilty of “releasing the same album twice,” it is Moving Mountains. They change their sound with pride. Whereas their previous releases “Waves” and “Pneuma,” both put out by Deep Elm Records, struck a more alternative/post-rock influenced chord, this new record takes the best of their previous influences and combines them with indie-rock inspirations to create a diverse mood unlike any of their earlier releases. On this album, the  band previously known for aggressive and heavy music shifts to a more balanced and restrained sound. In response to inquiries about the absence of the musically heavy parts that once identified Moving Mountains, frontman Greg Dunn describes how he wanted to make “a record that shared similar sentiment, vibe, and emotion — but with restraint and minimalism… [They] didn’t want to hide behind loudness.” Under producer Matt Goldman (Underoath, The Devil Wears Prada, etc.), Moving Mountains have achieved that goal with great craft.

The record begins with the track “Swing Set,” setting the mood for ten songs most prominently characterized by Movings Mountains’ dynamic capabilities. Many of this album’s songs display fluctuating levels of softness and loud build-ups that serve to highlight the power of the lyrics. In addition to “Swing Set,” tracks like “Seasonal” and “Eastern Leaves” display a similar level of mastery of dynamic structure, creating a song-by-song energy that individualizes the tracks, but also protects the cohesiveness of the record. In addition to these dynamically diverse tracks, songs like “Hands” and “Under a Falling Sky” embody more sentimental, vibing tones, and the track titled “Hudson” picks up the tempo and heightens the volume, reminding listeners that Moving Mountains have not lost their ability to create faster-tempo jams. For listeners hoping for more fast-paced songs, like the first half of “Hudson,” these compositions have little to offer in terms of energy comparable to their previous single “Alleviate,” but these songs redeem themselves in areas left largely untouched in “Waves.”

While Moving Mountains have experimented with different structural styles, the album presents as a culmination of their structural development. This structural evolution peaks in “Eastern Leaves,” a track that is able to couple the calming, minimalist vibes the band desired with non-repeating sections laced with piano and bell melodies that contribute to the song’s intricate and gorgeous orchestration. All of this is done without taking away from the unity of the song’s style and form. Moving Mountains also display a capacity for traditional song structure with tracks like “Chords” sticking closely to verse-chorus-verse arrangement, coupled with some stylistic flair within these traditional structural parameters.

In terms of vocal performance, Dunn expands on his signature breathy vocals that characterize his articulation. To match the sentimentality and soothing qualities of many of the songs, Dunn appropriately emphasizes this quality, and coupled with the vocal production of Matt Goldman, the calming vocal sounds shine in songs like “Under a Falling Sky” and “Stones.” After several songs, Dunn’s voice may leave something to be desired, though, lacking some of the force and abrasiveness he presented in “Waves.” Listeners may find themselves wishing he would push his voice more often, or explore a different octave with his melodies. Lyrically, Dunn is introspective, complimenting the mood conveyed by the musicality of the record. As if verbally describing the songs’ tonalities, in songs like “Hands,” he writes, “Fall back instead / Feel your breath internalize,” mirroring the overwhelming calming atmosphere of the song. Dunn also conveys his emotional vulnerability in songs like “Eastern Leaves,” singing: “Well I hope that you know that I can’t feel a thing/ From this high that I’ve got but everything is burning up/ inside my heart.” Overall, the personal content of the lyrics articulates a positivity of personal acceptance that was lost in the brooding lyrical nature of previous releases.

Perhaps the most impressive parts of this album shine through in the overall musicianship. In nearly every song, they have managed to combine their desire for a more beautiful, melodious simplicity with their mastery of structure to create an overall record that strikes a nerve, or a particular emotion at nearly every turn. The guitar work is stellar in almost every song, showcasing both Dunn’s and lead guitarist Joshua Kirby’s newfound restraint that makes the guitar parts uniform and intricate without ever feeling forced.

Overall, Moving Mountains have accomplished all of their stated goals on this record and then some. They have managed to create an original album, above and beyond their previous releases, while still maintaining their melodic sensibilities, mastery of structure, and ability to create an impressive and simultaneously cohesive record with a wide variety of influences. On this album, Moving Mountains have proven themselves capable of not only outdoing other artists working in a similar vein, but also capable of outdoing themselves. In what may sadly be their swan song, Moving Mountains leave us with this striking album that will be a sentimental reminder of their songwriting potential… unless they make the decision to outdo themselves once again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: