Joseph D'Agostino, lead singer and co-founder of Staten Island newcomers Cymbals Eat Guitars, was once quoted as saying, "I've been reading Pitchfork since I was in ninth grade." Now a college student, Pitchfork's compendium of music criticisms lend themselves rather clearly throughout his bands' debut album Why There Are Mountains. A ton of diverse elements manifest and work together unexpectedly well in what can be seen as a scholarly tracking of independent music standouts, albeit post 2003.
From the opening track to about six songs in, Why There Are Mountains was really difficult to pin a sound on-- there was a lot of really different stuff going on. The opening track "And the Hazy Sea" starts off by painting a thick and textured wall of sound reminiscent of No Age's contemporary noise-punk, before quickly dipping into the significantly less-noisy, indie-pop brevity of early Broken Social Scene. "Indiana" takes a break from the ambient reverb and tiptoes into a folk tinged piano that sounds like the punk rock cousin of Ben Kweller, which oddly enough, works quite well.
But perhaps the bands' most defining characteristic is D'Agostino's ability to adapt his voice to fit the instrumentation's style bending ways. D'Agostino's barely audible whisper on "Share" is equally adept and effective as his intentionally off-key tenor and vein-throbbing screech on "Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)." In essence, it's his chameleonic voice that ties all the different sounds together and gives the band its crystal clear identity.
Save for a few isolated examples, when a band's inspirations are easily cited they often get pigeonholed as imitative and unoriginal. Why There Are Mountains is one of these isolated instances where the quality of the album's composition easily outweighs the transparency of the bands' influences. In the case of Cymbals Eat Guitars, going with what's worked in the past makes for all sorts of wonderful. Progressivism is kind of overrated anyway. - chris gayomali