There aren’t too many records that can be described in a single word. Ashland from Montreal’s EP (Eric Penney) is just one of those albums. The word isn’t incredible. The word isn’t beautiful or some other overused term. The word is fuck. It may seem like a crude and vague descriptor but FUCK it is a great album. FUCK.
I’m a fool for a stripped down sound and Ashland is just that. The album’s opener “Over Our Graves, After We’ve Died” is by no means minimalist but still feels bare and lonely. Transistor organs, guitars, choral backing vocals and just the smallest percussion make this song tender and delicate. It is an absolute pleasure with headphones. Thick, lush, and just psychedelic enough to keep you wondering what happens next. FUCK.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the vocalist. Who is this this Eric Penney guy anyway? Tender yet masculine he sings like he means it. He has the monotone charm of Magnetic Fields, the wooziness of The Czars, and the restrained aggression of Burning Airlines. This could be way off but this guy has to have consumed shitloads of 90’s college rock. His delivery is both confident and apathetic at once. You can’t really beat that either. You know how people are always better singers in the shower? Well, he sounds like he takes the shower with him everywhere he goes. It doesn’t hurt that he puts And well, FUCK.
Do yourself a favor: buy it. The fact is, it is a fucking great record so I don’t want to over analyze it here. Buy it for yourself, your friends, and your elderly relatives that still have their turntables hooked up to the Magnavox hifi system. Everyone will come out happy. Ashland is medicine for your ears and they need it right now. In the mean time, listen to my favorite track from the record, “Sans Eyes, Sans Teeth, Sans Hair.” Fuck unitedcassette