reviewed by Michael Thomas
Why aren’t you a better person than you are? Chances are, there are some outside forces setting you back. But honestly, your biggest enemy is probably yourself. What exactly it means to Wake Up as a Mountain is unclear, but what is clear is that the album is about how much we struggle against ourselves.
It’s very thematically cohesive, and the overall tone of the album shifts between lamentation, defeat and maybe even a little overcoming. This time around, the bulk of Hinindar seems to be Steve Sloane only, though he’s teamed up with the excellent Aaron Comeau, who both produced and played on this album. Previously Sloane’s music was described as “gritty” and there was power and rawness, but this time the rawness comes from Sloane’s softer, almost resigned vocals and lyrics.
The stripping down of Hinindar’s sound serves the album’s theme well. It’s mostly folk music with a bit of a country air here and there, but what you’ll notice most is the emotion behind everything. The album’s title track is also the opener, and the gentle guitar leads Sloane through the song, at one point observing his weakness: “I lean on people more than they do me.”
With “Dime in the Dirt,” one of the five songs on the album featuring Julie Arsenault on backup vocals, Sloane sings about nerves. The hypnotic guitar conveys a sense of urgency as Sloane and Arsenault sing “I don’t want to be a person that doesn’t exist anymore.” On “Fits,” Sloane remarks multiple times “I’m a shell of a whole.” There’s a sense of nihilism in “Folding,” which starts with a few plaintive strums of guitar before keys swell to make up most of the melody. Sloane even says “I feel nothing.”
While he’s aware of his flaws, he also seems somewhat resigned to what he does on a daily basis. In “Son of a Building,” one gets the sense that he thinks all of his actions are inevitable. Things look especially grim on “Heaven is Gone,” a very anguished-sounding song where Sloane says at one point “I can’t see that light at the end.”
By the end of the album, maybe, just maybe, things might be looking up. “How to Sleep” at first seems to suggest one way to solve your problems is to drink or party them away, but soon the melody changes to something much cheery and rootsy, as Sloane sings “All I have to do is come alive.”
Whether any of us will ever be at peace with ourselves is a huge unknown, and Sloane knows that. Wake Up as a Mountain is enigmatic and emotionally painful, but necessary for self-reflection.
Top Tracks: “Hell is Here”; “Folding”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)