Album cover with two cats on it.

Local Review: Sunny Day Soap Opera – Me & The Mountain

Local Music Reviews

Sunny Day Soap Opera
Me & The Mountain
Hiner Records
Street: 05.03
Sunny Day Soap Opera = Vampire Weekend + Wilco  + Cage the Elephant

Sunny Day Soap Opera’s newest release is swelling, orchestral, full-bodied and builds a feeling of melancholic rage. Me & The Mountain is organized a little like The Beatles’ rooftop concert, but set instead on a floating stage in the middle of Walden Pond—at once transcendental, rapturous, raucous and, of course, sinking. The closeout on the album’s finale is akin to ABBA’s “Chiquitita”—bold, bright, euphoric and meant to go out with a bang. It’s the kind of album with big “last-hurrah” energy, especially in the ways that it wishes farewell and good riddance to past love and, as such, it allows the album to ring anthemic, nostalgic and raw. 

The album opens with its titular track, “Me & The Mountain,” and the song’s urgent, pensive backing guitar feels at first as cold and thin as mountain air—until about halfway through, when the track takes a turn for the defiant and bold. In the first half, the speaker of this poem-song stands in awe of a mountain (who is also a metaphorical lover) proclaiming, “Oh, you are mighty” in reedy and breathy tones, promising “I’ll hold you again / My only friend.” Then, all that persistent electric guitar becomes jangly and upbeat, spunky and full of attitude, crescendoing in all the ways your favorite Sgt. Pepper track does. 

“Me & The Mountain” is appropriately emblematic of the Ogden-based quartet’s sound throughout the album. Most tracks present plaintive, Ezra Koenig-esque vocals over expansive and intricate, instrumentation that is sometimes-perky and sometimes-foreboding. The gorgeously arranged bits of jaunty rhythm sections, warm piano riffs and sweet acoustic fingerpicking across the album are often so rich and robust that the vocals can feel like an accessory to the main show. The elegant tension and release built into the album’s sound design take center stage, showcasing the true artistry of the musical composition. Take “Coffee,” which begins with glittering strings and upbeat piano and then transmutes via electric guitar infusion several times over into an expansive and complex ballad. “Sheep” begins like something soft and downtempo from Coldplay’s Parachutes and then ascends into jazzy screamo while horns wail and the singer does too: “I wish that I said I don’t accept your apology.” This is not to suggest the vocals aren’t noteworthy on their own; take “Magnolia Mtn., Pt. 2,” the album’s most folk-forward final track, which blends Sunny Day Soap Opera’s symphonic sound with enough harmonica and gentle acoustic strumming to showcase the emotion of the singer’s voice. “Maybe after all this time spent alone,” the track begins, with almost all focus on the soft and punchy vocals like a spotlight, “This body I have climbed / And this body I have owned. / I just now realized / Just how much I’ve grown. / I’m just now reaping / What I’ve always sown.” 

The album feels as local as they come, drawing from the landscape of Northern Utah to illustrate the beauty and reverence of chaotic love and troubled heartbreak. In “Local,” we’re told, “Me and the mountain / We talk heart to heart / I told you I’m scared of the dark / You said you’re okay / I hate when you push me away / From the version of yourself you create.” In “Black Train,” the steady piano rhythm mimics the chugging of a train on the tracks—a familiar sound for Ogdenites—and as “The train rolls on and on / The engine, it burns so long,” tvhe track derails, too. “Black Train,” like many of the songs on Me & The Mountain, has the kind of sonic warmth and lushness that Weezer’s OK Human has, issuing a controlled plea for something wild over ascending melodies: “The train will run forever / into the endless sky / Until I’ve been delivered to the home of you and I.” “Bitter Winds” makes use of the album’s running theme of repetitive fingerpicking to illustrate the quality of air, which can ultimately be suffocating. Follow @sunnydaysoapopera on Instagram for live show updates; I imagine that catching this record live underneath the mountains this summer would hit juuuust right.   –Libby Leonard

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