07 Mar, 2013

Mount Moriah – “Miracle Temple”

Mount Moriah - Miracle TempleI first heard of Mount Moriah a few years ago, when my semi-obsession with the Mountain Goats somehow pointed me to a three-song EP called The Letting Go. The opening and closing tracks were good enough, if unconvincing; but that middle one? The title track has this simple and sudden piano line, these lazily beautiful vocals and lyrics that preach the bible but somehow come off as sultry. If you follow independent music, every once in a while you find something that’s undiscovered and too-small and perfect, and that was one of those moments for me.

Well, over the past few years, Mount Moriah has caught the eyes of some of the big guns at Merge Records, and on their second album (their first with the label), listeners are starting to see this band realize their tremendous potential. Album opener “Younger Days” reminds me of that song from the EP in the way it grips me–it’s the kind of opener that throws you into a headlock and drags you through the next 40 minutes. And it’s the kind of country song college radio DJs dream about, immediate and melancholy but not trite.

Miracle Temple shows a band that’s great at songwriting, has a clear sense of melody and isn’t afraid to fudge genre.  At times, lead singer Heather McEntire lets her inner Emmylou shine, and at others, the band gets epic and apocalyptic. McEntire can get dark when the songs demand it, and her diversity is a big part of what makes this album work.

The album’s so frequently good–and in certain moments brilliant–that it’s easy to get frustrated when every song doesn’t deliver like the highlights. I can’t help but get a bit bored by some of the album’s 45 minutes–especially the middle section. The album’s final two tracks give you reason to stick around; you leave satisfied but never completely full. I’m so vague in my criticism because I’m not sure why I’m not completely thrilled about this release. Mount Moriah is a band who’s almost-but-not-quite there. Listeners are left in the enviable position feeling like the best is yet to come. Isn’t that reason enough to pick up the record? This band is damn good–but you might get caught up wishing they were perfect.

Review by Joey Gargotto.

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