Photo: Matt Hall

The Mountain Carol Will Take You on an Eclectic Journey with ‘Starkiller and the Banshees’ (album stream)

The Mountain Carol's Starkiller and the Banshees is filled with inventive mixtures that make it easy to recommend for fans of acts like Future Islands and Talking Heads.

There’s something very fetching about New York trio
the Mountain Carol, an “atmospheric, jazzy electropop outfit with plenty of avant-garde indie pop hooks and experimental sounds” that was born out of disbanded power pop trio The Tavi in 2011. Initially comprised of guitarist Austtin Petrashune (who’d been working as a “costumed fiddler player in a Hong Kong amusement park”) and keyboardist/songwriter Bruce Wilson (who cites Dave Brubeck and Brian Wilson as influences), the pair eventually recruited established indie drummer Matt Hall (Comrade Nixon, Plattsburgh Home Team, Broken Arrow Hearts) to complete the line-up.

Last May, the band released its auspicious self-titled debut EP and have since followed-up with “a trickle of live recordings, music videos, and cryptic artistic statements through a variety of media channels”, including their
Divine Council subscription fan club. Clearly, they’ve put a lot of effort into making their next record, Starkiller and the Banshees (released on Third Eye Industries), as heavily anticipated and striking as possible. Fortunately, it lives up to the hype, offering a consistently intriguing hodge-podge of charming stylistic fusions that cement the trio as equal parts imaginative, go-getting, and skilled.

According to the group, the album marks a very open and full incorporation of longstanding stimuli:

At this point in our lives, influences cross-pollinate freely and change rapidly. Influences may also be channeled in an oblique way so that you would never suspect the origin of certain artistic decisions. We are heavily inspired by country-and-western singers and classic Italian-American swingers, for example. We each also bring different things from our individual history into our individual interpretations of these songs, and those often remain secret even to each other. The resulting new combination of hidden influences makes the songs greater and keeps the group unspoiled by the limitations of these original influences.

Starkiller and the Banshees is filled with inventive mixtures that make it easy to recommend for fans of acts like Future Islands, Talking Heads, and Palm. For instance, opener “Dino” blends wispy, old-fashioned romantic rock croons with off-kilter keyboard touches to evoke the ’50s and the ’80s at once. Somehow, it all fits together well, as does the ethereal smokiness behind the sunny ’60s pop charm of the title track. In contrast, “Sway” feels more modern, with DIY beats and light instrumentation highlighting the vocals, whereas “Adventure Safari” coats a conventional piano ballad with avant-garde layers before “The Party’s Over” offers a luscious and energetic closer filled with shimmering textures.

Really, each track on the release feels both distinctive and tightly tied to the rest of sequence, so it’s constantly surprising while also feeling quite unified. Be sure to check out all of
Starkiller and the Banshees below and pick it up on June 1st.