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The Kissaway Trail’s “Sleep Mountain” reviewed: Compare And contrast by Mike Nessing

I’m more of a music fan than a music critic. A music critic has to stay up to date with everything so that when the time comes that they have to review a new album, they can get all righteous and pontificate about how much this record or that EP is derivative of this other band that presumably does it much better.
So in reviewing “Sleep Mountain”, the latest offering from Danish independent rockers The Kissaway Trail, I feel almost like I should declare myself ineligible. You see, I’ve never heard a note of The Arcade Fire, British Sea Power, The Shout Out Louds, or any of the other bands Kissaway Trail is being compared to within the context of other online reviews from much more qualified “critics”.
Depending on how one views this, I am either woefully unqualified to comment on the likes of this album, or in a uniquely advantageous position as a music fan that reviews records. I actually get to write about bands like this one unfettered from the easy-out deadline meeting approach that I like to refer to as “the dreaded compare and contrast”. The internet is just teeming with record reviewers that rely on this approach way too heavily. More importantly, it becomes less about the music and more about the writer’s supposed qualifications.
It’s actually quite a challenge. Because a comment like “The Kissaway Trail are reminiscent of the experimental leanings of bands like “Unforgettable Fire” period U2 is easy to write, easy to defend, and will probably tick off at least two other writers on this blog who happen to hate U2. So you see, not only is it easy, but it also can be fun.
But it also inaccurately describes the band and what they’re trying to do here. The record has a thick aura of sound around and within it. Piano and glockenspiel adorn the opening track, “SDP”. Other tracks employ banjo, fiddle, and whatever else the band deems appropriate to get their music across. So the U2 comparison is really more about the atmospheric base that Kissaway Trail uses as a background to paint their picture, and not so much about what their songs sound like.
I’m sure if I had actually heard The Arcade Fire, or whoever else you want to mention I could just drop their name in here instead of U2’s, and make a decent point or two simply by employing “the dreaded compare and contrast” method.
But the cool thing about passion and creativity is that it can come from anywhere. So if a band can make a record that’s as adventurous as this one, employing interesting and at times thrilling arrangements, topped off with some beautiful two part harmony, does it really matter where they got their muse from?
“Sleep Mountain” is by no means perfect. It does occasionally lose it’s way but only because it reaches so high. As a music fan, I want to nurture this type of effort and creativity because we need as many bands like this as we can get, regardless of whoever they may or may not be derived from. A critic on the other hand, would be quick to squelch an effort like this in an attempt to convince you how reliable and well educated musically they are. Like I said, I’m no critic.
Oh, and I almost forgot go to this link www.myspace.com/thekissawaytrail and hear streaming audio by the band.. You’ll be glad you did.

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