Trace Mountains is the solo project of Dave Benton (of Spook Houses, LVL UP and label Double Double Whammy). This cassette is a re-release Trace Mountain’s 2014 release Buttery Sprouts, what Benton describes as “a collection of songs that brought Trace Mountains into existence”. If you’re not familiar with these songs already, then let us hold your hand and we’ll jump in together.
The Silver Jews-quoting ‘i am extra natural’ will be familiar to fans of LVL UP as a full band version appeared on their last album Hoodwink’d. It’s a good intro to the sound of Trace Mountains, loose-limbed and lo-fi, Benton’s drawled vocals sounding simultaneously bummed-out and somehow pretty alright.
“i don’t wannabe the one
to bring it down to be no fun
rhode island in the sun
what is left in new jersey
but my family and my job
just me and my dog”
The title track is a rumbling lo-fi song about clogging arteries and cooking Brussels sprouts, Whatever, Dad‘s Elaiza Santos joining on vocals and Mike Ditrio providing drums. ‘salty/sweet’ is a great example of how Trace Mountain’s songs latch on to snippets of melodies, stuttering around then hitting sweet little rushes of pop bliss, like when Benton sings, “i can’t dig it when everyone i meet / same asshole i met last week / and i noticed i don’t dream even thunderstorms or pretty things / it’s just tape deck hiss and trampolines”. This is also a good example of Benton’s lyrics, the way he frames mundane and sometimes awkward thoughts in a way that feels somehow poetic, the words given an understated weight which shines beyond their subject matter.
We also get a undulating lo-fi Beyonce cover (initially from the Birdtapes Top 40 compilation), an almost epic indie rock song (‘when its dark’) and an eleven minute outro of tinkling piano. There are a few unfamiliar songs that didn’t appear on the initial release; ‘bring the mountain to me’ is a breezy acoustic track with gentle and kind-sounding vocals, while ‘thunder trails’ is a hushed acoustic song, Benton’s vocals almost breaking. This is followed by ‘forgiveness’, a lean and upbeat pop song, which played after the previous track illustrates the range of Trace Mountains and highlights just what makes them so listenable.
“old dirt you thrown underneath the stair
is right there
right where you said i’d tremble and stare
at the vast unforgiving spirit lurking there
but it takes time, to realise
Trace Mountains make pop songs for the 21st century, quiet and insular tracks that sound sometimes lonely and sometimes carefree, changing direction at will, seguing from a hesitant stumble to smooth and catchy in an instant. Little nuggets of fuzzy goodness.
You can get Buttery Sprouts & Other Songs on cassette (released 15th of July) or a name-your-price download from the Trace Mountains Bandcamp page.