Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Morning Show host John Richards, is “Some Sweet Relief” by Speck Mountain from the 2009 album Some Sweet Relief on Carrot Top Records.
There is a certain serenity in the sound of Speck Mountain that folds the mind inward on itself — in a good way. Marie-Claire Balabanian and Karl Briedrick’s ethereal, spaced-out arrangements walk the razor-sharp line between kinetic emotion and listless introspection. The altitude at which folk and soul collide can be treacherous territory. I mean, who really wants to imagine Aretha Franklin sitting in Golden Gate Park with flowers in her hair, wacked out on acid? Or Woody Guthrie crooning through purple feather boas? Terrifying as it may seem, the daring combination of these genres strikes at the heart of Speck Mountain’s success. With the arrival of their second album, Some Sweet Relief, obvious comparisons to Mazzy Star and Low continue but only begin to tell the story of their sound. Speck Mountain consciously avoids the extremes of shoegaze and folk, instead cherry-picking each school’s finest qualities and bolting them together with the sincerity and richness of Motor City soul, creating oscillating texture grounded in human truths and softening reality’s sharp corners with warmth and sonic space. The efficiency of the title song’s expressive landscapes are accentuated by the kind of contemplative guitar work that sends a medulla-melting euphoria through the base of one’s skull. Reminiscent of Lou Reed’s finest moments (“Pale Blue Eyes,” “Stephanie Says,” “Rock and Roll,” “Candy Says,” “Sweet Jane,” etc.), Speck Mountain will send you searching for your headphones, closing your eyes and sinking into the floor. Some sweet relief indeed.
Currently, Balabanian and Briedrick are laying low in hometown Chicago, but they’ll be playing at Schuba’s next Tuesday, May 19, and then around the East Coast in starting in June. Keep an eye out for more live dates with Speck Mountain later this year and follow along on their MySpace page. For now, here’s “Angela,” another song from their new release: