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December 13, 2013

Music review: Mount Pressmore is a listening delight

NORMAN — Musician: Mount Pressmore

Album name: Enjoy (2013)

Why You Should Listen: Mount Pressmore is admirable for the height of its musicianship. This quintet stands tall in terms of influences, technical capability and sheer listening delight. Lead vocalist, keyboard player and band leader Thomas Shaw chose to build this mighty summit even steeper by featuring Austin chanteuse Erin Ivey.

Mount Pressmore’s sound defies categorization. 21st century indie rock rarely conjures Perry Como but his silken tones are there along with sly purloining from jazz and Broadway. There’s a feeling to “Enjoy” that the listening point of its peak encompasses much of the entire American songbook. Mount Pressmore’s lyrics are included in an adorable petite booklet and slipped inside a vintage design 6-cent Air Mail letter. Antiquity meets modernity. The words are cryptic with unlikely song titles including “The New Regional Branch Manager,” “Vice-Presidential Material” and “Dawn, Bingham.” Shaw’s lyrics are poetic with actual meaning or story elusive. Reading them is akin to baffled peeking at someone’s personal journal. Listening to them is better because the swirling music overrides that there’s little clue to what the hell they’re about. Don’t be surprised if one number segues effortlessly into another.

Shaw knows what he’s doing: There’s nothing here that wasn’t obviously obsessed over. He wrote out every note in the album’s ten songs, they were practiced meticulously and the result takes the listener to a rarely attained musical crest. Ivey’s backing vocals are a revelation. She strongly contributes to the aura of this being a most American extravaganza. Ivey may not earn any hipster cred for a Lawrence Welk chorus comparison but it was inevitable. She’s a one woman chorale. Shaw’s lead vocals are pleasant and competent enough. It’s the fact that he’s singing from high atop a magnificent musical mountaintop that makes this an extraordinary record.

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