The voice is back. The voice that won my heart, starting with her ultra sexy turn at the mic on Surfer Rosa‘s “Gigantic,” is back. Kim Deal’s one-of-a-kind throaty singing voice returns, ready for more sonic encounters with Mountain Battles. We all know how The Breeders went from indie darlings to modern rock stars with the release of Last Splash. This was primarily due to their magnificent lead single “Cannonball.” Last Splash has the distinction of selling more copies than any of Pixies records. Sales aside, I really wasn’t fan of Last Splash. My favorite Breeders album was actually their last one, 2002’s Title TK. TK resonated more with debut Pod by turning away from the popular sensibilities of Last Splash. This is due to the return of Mr. Analog Steve Albini. You can really hear the lo-fi radiance in the beauty of “Off You.” With just a guitar to back her, Kim Deal’s low key vocal sounds like she’s crooning to a lost lover over a long distant call.
When I think of The Breeders, it’s Kimmie, as Frances Black so lovingly calls Deal, and her smoker/seductive voice that comes to mind. That voice returns loudly and is the first thing we hear on Mountain Battles‘ opening track. “Overglazed” sounds as if Kim Deal is standing on top of the mountain singing through a megaphone. It’s her call to arms announcing the re-arrival of her magnificent Breeders.
Those who were expecting “Cannonball” part deux and were disappointed with Title TK will be happy to hear that Mountain Battles incorporates all of the Breeders’ vintage sounds—the upbeat, lustful tones of Last Splash and the lush melodies from Pod and Title TK.
After “Overglazed” comes the funky backbeat number “Bang On.” It’s the closest the Deal Sisters will come to an all-out dance number. Relax, The Breeders haven’t gone Prodigy on us now, but as Kim and Kelley sing “I love no one and no one loves me,” this bass induced number is one that you’ll be able to shake your thang to while your speakers go boom, boom in your car stereo. But before it becomes a full-on DJ explosion, during the break down “Bang On” leaves off the bass and a singular guitar riff appears along with Deal singing “I’m missing…” over and over again before the beat starts up again. Think of it as an out of time ’60s boogie number with out the techno bells and whistles.
“Night of Joy” follows with a Title TK down beat style. Kim’s songs sound as if each one is an ode to her imaginary lover that she’s longing to discover. “I can’t stop the wave of sorrow very mile that you go /give me this night…come home,” she sings to the kind of soul lover who lives in her dreams and comes alive in songs like “Night of Joy.”
“We’re Gonna Rise” is the morning after, in song, Deal awakens alone to, “nothing you came to believe or what you decided last night/ still the sun shines/hits my shield and ignites.” Another slow moving guitar based number that grows as Deals finding echoing strength as the sun like hope lights her face. “German Studios” follows as Kim and Kelley sing in their ancestral tongue of German. A very riff-layered, bouncy and enjoyable number that showcases the trademark Deal sisters’ harmonies that I adore so much.
The songs on Mountain Battles follow the infamous loud-quiet-loud method that Kim’s original band, The Pixies, made famous. I like to rock out like the best of them but I prefer the quiet ones like the Latin flavored “Regalame Esta Noche.” One of my favorite songs on the album, the flamenco and Spanish licks highlight Kim singing romantic lyrics en Español. I love the way Kim Deal has not only been exploring new languages also adding new sounds to her versatile repertoire.
Mountain Battles finds Deal singing honest reflections from the front lines of the daily battle against modern day addictions. This is Deal’s voice vulnerable and true, though I wouldn’t call this a return to form. “Each day the long light dims and fades not lost but gone before.” You can hear the ripples and scars through the country-like lament on “Hear No More.” This sweet ballad continues Deal’s theme of lovesick longing that lingers around Mountain Battles. “The light shines close echoes low of yr sweet voice I weep and mourn.” With these lyrics and a traditional country strum, you can imagine Johnny Cash grinning with approval from above.
The album ends with a very low key and Title TK-esque title track. Some may hear this as a difficult listen. Mountain Battles is the sound of Deal rediscovering her voice through shades of shadows and sunlight, some of which are frighteningly unconventional like the Nico/Marble Index like solitary keyboard effect of the title track. Deal croons a heartfelt yet unconventional vocal as distorted guitar riffs mystically appear throughout. These lyrical confessions are view inside of her new life without lifted harmony. Whether you prefer loud, quiet or experimental resonance, Mountain Battles is an album worthy of your complete and unaltered concentration.
Throwing Muses – University
Guided By Voices – Alien Lanes
PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her