Speck Mountain- Some Sweet Relief

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Two years after their debut album Summer Above came out, dream pop/psychedelic/shoegaze band Speck Mountain is back with their sophomore release Some Sweet Relief. The Chicago, Illinois based group made a good impression on listeners with their debut, but with this new release they have risen to an entirely new level in both the quality of their song writing and overall level of polish. It may be early in the year, but those with a taste for dreamier and entrancing pop/rock music will find that Speck Mountain’s latest will be a potential album of the year candidate further down the road.

As soon as Some Sweet Relief begins, listeners will immediately find themselves absorbed by the atmospheric dream pop/shoegaze arrangements that the band has to offer. Though there are times where the group occasionally breaks into segments that are slightly close to traditional rock music, the instrumentalists never lose sight of the melodic, laid back styles that form the base of each track. Speck Mountain’s instrumentalists have clearly grown as songwriters, as each track feels as though it is just right in length and all of the styles (from trip hop influenced patterns to dream pop) fit together wonderfully. There isn’t a weak song on this release, and this is sure to be a release that listeners put on repeat and listen to quite often.

While the instrumentals will initially hook listeners, it will surely be the vocals of Marie-Claire Balabanian that will keep them coming back for more time and time again. She has a melodic voice that often has a hint of fragility to it, showing that she has no problems completely exposing herself to listeners and letting them experience what she is feeling. On some tracks she keeps a more low key and laid back style, while on songs such as “Backsliding” she pushes her voice into upper ranges that listeners may not be expecting. This gives her performance even more depth than before, and when combined with lyrics that tell wonderfully detailed stories and that seem to have been very planned out it becomes clear that Speck Mountain is at the top of their game.

If you can’t already tell, I’m head over heels in love with this album. And considering how many different bands and albums land on my desk on a regular basis, that really says something. If you’re into mellower rock/pop with hints of shoegaze and trip hop, Some Sweet Relief is a must have and will likely have you wondering how you didn’t discover this band earlier. Speck Mountain has really come into their own and their continuing attention to detail has really put them in a league all their own.


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