Album Review: Speck Mountain – Badwater

by New Music Michael on March 6 2013

speckmountainbadwaterArtist: Speck Mountain

Album: Badwater

Overall Rating: 8.6

Release Date: January 22 2013

Label: Carrot Top

After posting the video for Speck Mountain’s “Slow So Long” early in February, I thought it apropos to check out the whole album and see what I thought.

Good idea.

The Chicago duo refer to their sound as “ambient soul”. Others refer to it as “space rock”, a sort-of psychedelic rock that has distinguishable tinges of late 70’s pop icons like Fleetwood Mac ,Heart,and the like. The duo is comprised of Marie-Claire Balabanian and Karl Briedrick, whom lived respectively in Los Angeles and Detroit at first, then met each other in New York, then transitioned back to Chicago. “Badwater” is the third album since their debut in 2007, and the second with Carrot Top.

I don’t know what you’d call it, but I feel a lot of influence of bands akin to Crash Vegas too. Maybe psychedelic folk rock? Ahhh, now there was a band. Just three studio albums, never rated higher than #31 (“Aurora”, which was their best in my opinion and the one I still listen to on a regular basis).

But that’s neither here nor there. Speck Mountain’s offering is a spiralling yet mellow effort in its own right. Blissful yet touching. Like a swirling dervish in the middle of the desert, kicking up sand in every direction but remaining tight within its core. “Flares” is especially brilliant, an outpouring of emotion, Marie-Claire’s vocals taking center stage and pulling along the melody in perfect harmony, like a child pulling the love of his life, a brand new puppy, in a red wagon along the sidewalk. But deeper still. More substantial.

“Coldpoint” is another standout track, a blissful, 60s-esque psychedelic ballad of epic proportions. And “Young Eyes”, with its reverbating guitar and matching vocals from Marie-Clarie? Wow.

Hell, who am I kidding. The whole album is absolutely brilliant. The perfect mix of modernized 60’s psychedelic, with a folk-rock aesthetic, adding in just a touch of a southern soul, and a vocalist that’ll make the hair on your neck stand straight out (unless you just got those shaved at a haircut, like I did yesterday). I’ll be flabbergasted if it doesn’t end up on my year-end list for best albums. Go check it out now.

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