In The Mountain In The Cloud doesnt sound much like a band treading new sonic ground, or even experimenting with the recontextualizing of others before them, but more on that later. Also, they ditched the small label, Equal Vision Records, for Atlantic Records in April of last year. I wonder if producer John Hills (who has a handful of Shakira, Theophilus London and Christina Aguilera tracks to his credit) assistance with the record was the bands choice or Warner Bros.
Neither is the band particularly psychedelic. There isnt anything especially alluring or freaky about this, their sixth studio album, which is aggravatingly simple and watered-down for an act thats previously aimed at lofty conceptual goals in its style. Its the opposite of damaged psych (Ariel Pink, for instance), but also fails in the way of more lyrically challenging sub-genres, like psych-folk (Jackie O Motherfucker) and the orchestral rich pastoral (Fleet Foxes). Heck, they dont even really jam on this record, which, as I discovered back in the spring, is something theyre pretty good at.
Such incongruence with established sounds, concepts and styles is only rarely an indicator of originality, and In the Mountain in the Cloud just isnt one of those albums. My largest complaint about the record is that the band too often sounds like imitators, not innovators, and of My Morning Jacket at that (see the chorus of Wordless Chorus if youre not in on this little joke). Where MMJ are burlier, more straightforward-rocking and write compelling lyrics, P.TM plays about too much with poorly recorded orchestral stuff. Traditional string arrangements are scattered about this record like dead flowers. I should also add that Jim James falsetto, while certainly not authoritative, kicks P.TM singer John Gourleys in the balls, and not in a way thats helpful.
Opener So American is the sonic equivalent of a David Bowie-themed, color-by-numbers drawing book, right down to the handclaps, tempo and charming, English-styled vocals. You Carried Us (Share with Me the Sun) progresses like an MGMT track, one with stale synths and boring lyrics. And Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs) actually contains the phrase the kids are just fine. Snooze.
For a brief moment midway through its six minutes and 21 seconds, I thought (OK, hoped) closer Sleep Forever steadily morphed into Macy Grays iconic single I Try, from which P.TMs almost completely rips a violin melody, and for which I have no qualms admitting my faithful love.
I feel like Ive complained enough, so at this point I think Im going to finish this review by listening to I Try a few times.