Lasting Power: How Moving Mountains’ “Final” Record Still Remains One Of The Best, Even Over A Year Later
It’s quite rare to sit down with a record and be totally engulfed in it - as if you’re listening to it for the first time - when in reality, it came out over a year ago. This kind of lasting power is so rare, in fact, that most people don’t really get to experience this bizarre yet comfortable feeling. With Moving Mountains' self-titled LP from September 2013, it's extremely difficult not to feel precisely this way.
Releasing the album after putting out a black and white live video series (the “Telegraph Sessions”) of the band performing each song on YouTube, Moving Mountains soon thereafter announced their hiatus as a band before the world really got to settle into the record. The worst part? Moving Mountains is easily their most mature, focused, and well-rounded effort to date. After a few phenomenal EP’s and a couple LP’s, Moving Mountains sat back and refined their sound in such a way that it seemingly signaled a return to form and a move towards possible ubiquity within the music scene. The head-scratching decision to take a hiatus after barely touring (if at all) in support of the incredible new LP left many wondering.. “Why?” Luckily, even with this heartbreaking decision, Moving Mountains have left us with an incredible record that apparently does not recognize time or age, as it has held up perfectly to 2014’s grueling standards.
I wrote plenty of words about the album and what it meant to me at the time of release, but a year later, I oddly feel exactly the same way. How can this be? Music changes so rapidly, and the amount of new bands and records grow by the day. How can one album be so ignorant of time and its inevitable effect on its music? Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I wish I did. I feel like there just isn’t anything else out there that hits on the same level as this record right now, save for maybe Prawn’s phenomenal new record - which I wrote at length about over here - Kingfisher. This is partly true because Greg Dunn (Moving Mountains’ lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist) recorded and produced the album for Prawn, and even made a guest appearance on a song. But, past that, there’s not much else that’s anything close to Moving Mountains.
When Waves came out in 2011, it saw the band taking a much different direction that what we saw and heard on Pneuma and Foreword. Waves sent the band into Thrice-ish territory, what with the phenomenal air-y guitars and angsty vocals. It was a progression - natural, for most bands - from the tracks on Foreword and a complete rethinking of what the band was and who they wanted to be during Pneuma. To be fair, the band - Dunn, specifically - has stated in interviews that he was young during the recording of Pneuma and things had changed significantly since then. But, it was Waves that showcased the band’s true, raw talent and made them a driving force in the scene. Waves contained so many great tracks and wove an incredible story in such an unexpected way that it helped catapult the album to many people’s top end-of-year lists, including mine. This breakthrough record really set the stage for Moving Mountains in so many ways.
When I first sat down to write about Moving Mountains, I couldn’t shake the chills I got from listening to “Apsides” or the end of “Eastern Leaves”. I don’t get too many chills from music these days, but every time I heard those two tracks, I felt that way. It was hard to explain. It still is. At the end of my piece on the record and how it was necessary to listen to, I placed a great quote from Dunn which the band still currently has in its biography. Let me put it here again, too:
"We’re thinking in terms of 20 years from now," Dunn boasts ambitiously. "If someone goes back and they’re like, ‘Remember Moving Mountains?’ We want them to remember this album."
It’s pretty eerie how relevant that quote is. Sure, it’s only been just over a year since this record, but it holds true to an even greater effect. Obviously, Dunn needs to use hyperbole to get the message across by exaggerating the time scheme to 20 years instead of just a few, but the point is well taken. Moving Mountains has transcended its own self and yet somehow managed to stay relevant in the process. It’s a phenomena that is impossible to pin down on just one thing, and even more difficult to fully explain.
What I will say, though, is this album is special. Like the many before it - and the many that have subsequently come after it - Moving Mountains does so many things right in such a short time. One great example is of the haunting piano line during “Apsides”. It is so simple and yet provides such a perfect layer to the song that it’s kind of hard to comprehend. The lyrics themselves are even more eerie now that the band is on hiatus. In the first half of “Apsides”, Dunn croons ever-so-subtely:Will it sell?
And will the kids define it
as something that breaks the ground,
and all the things that don’t amount
to anything at all?
This is a huge departure from the subject matter of the rest of the song, but you can’t help but believe that this is Dunn in his most honest, most stream-of-consciousness sort of construction. The record obviously didn’t “sell”, as most records these days ever eclipse the top 50 of the Billboard top 200. It obviously didn’t “break the ground” to most “kids”, but to those of us who can read between the lines and appreciate the haunting-yet-comforting elements of the record, it definitely broke the ground. The ground - to this day, a year later - remains destroyed and in need of repairs.
But, at this point, I’m not so sure we want to repair the marks that Moving Mountains have left on our world. Thank you Greg Dunn and the rest of Moving Mountains for a record that truly none of us saw coming. We continue to be impressed… even a year after the fact.
Couldn’t have said it better myself…