Monarch Mtn is the project of Logan Farmer from Jacksonville, Florida. His latest album, Everyone is Here, was recorded through the summer at home on a borrowed telecaster, and can be summed up perfectly using a Townes van Zandt quote he includes in the liner notes:
“Sorrow and solitude;
these are the precious things
And the only words
that are worth remembering”
These words capture the sense of isolation and shadowy desolation that’s present across the album, though it would be wrong to consider the music of Monarch Mtn as simply a two dimensional mope-fest, with Farmer’s poetic lyrics and warm delivery hint at something beyond the misery.
‘The Power of Our Kind’ is thick with undulating shadows, the lonely guitar and Farmer’s vocals reminiscent of Keaton Henson. The song has a grim sense of defeat, set either in some post-apocalyptic near future or in the wildly uncertain present day (if there’s a difference). The lyrics are tailored for the last few weeks, possessing a kind of stoic incredulity at the planet’s situation (“What a time to be alive / The earth is dead / We understand the power of our kind”). But despite all this, Monarch Mtn finds a thread of hope, the ability to cling on to small, personal things as a way to overcome the big world-changing ones. “It’s not much,” Farmer sings, “but it’s something”.
There’s a similar message on ‘We All Get Sad Sometimes’, which sounds exactly like you’d imagine, somehow warm and comforting despite the subject matter, the feeling that no matter what happens, we’re all in this together. ‘The Dark Streets of Newark’ is another elegantly literary track about lost souls driving around in the middle of the night. The song holds a woozy quality that’s hard to describe, something not quite solid behind the vocals and steady drum beat, an aural representation of the alcohol in the character’s system. As Farmer sings:
“Mike was drunk and driving home
Through the dark streets of Newark
Tank of gas, a pack of smokes
And student loans to pay
Might call up a previous lover
The engine on, he grabs his phone
And stares into the light
Focus on the spinning number”
‘Marathon Man’ is a change of pace, a sassed-up and soulful shuffle with strange modulated vocals, while ‘Grey Eyes Kill’ unfolds in almost slow motion, an opaque but intense meditation on past trauma (“Blue, blue, blue if his fingers left a bruise / Remember that you won’t be just ten years old forever”). ‘The Waking Hours’ opens in a Gothic whisper, before hardening into an swaying soulful confidence, the vocals almost a snarl as Farmer sings, “And I don’t want to die in this piece of shit hotel”.
Penultimate track ‘I Wouldn’t Mourn the Loss’ meanders with a thick and sorrowful romanticism, before the slow and grand melancholy of closer ‘A Waste’. The song possesses a deep nostalgia that exists in the softly pealing guitar, the gentle background swells and the rich timber of Farmer’s voice.
“It’s my favorite image from our trip to New York:
Drunk in the village, facing the storm
Despite the bad weather, we were walking around
Do you remember it now?”
There’s a second quote on the Monarch Mtn Bandcanp page, this time from Peter Matthiessen’s National Book Award-winning novel Shadow Country.
“This world is painted on a wild dark metal”
Without quite knowing how or why, this captures some intangible sense that’s present across the album. The palette is undoubtedly gloomy, blacks and greys and deep blues, but Farmer’s warm vocals and poetic turns of phrase flicker across this twilight like threads of gold. Ol’ Townes wasn’t entirely wrong with what he said about sorrow and solitude, but he wasn’t quite right either. He left some words off the list, words that might not be said directly by Monarch Mtn but are undeniably present, love and hope which ascend from the comforting nostalgia hidden withn the wild dark metal of these songs.
You can get Everyone is Here now from the Monarch Mtn Bancamp page.