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  • Writer's pictureElliot K

Breaking Down 'Mountainhead': A Review



This is not a conventional review.


Everything Everything launched their new album, Mountainhead, two days before I went on holiday. I used the trip to explore one song a day for a fortnight.


Listening to Mountainhead track-by-track during my Scandinavian jaunt served two distinct purposes:


  1. Listening to one song a day gives each track room to breathe and develop and flourish and stuff(?)

  2. Both music and geography serve as strong memory triggers for me personally, so by associating a song to a specific location or journey... Super memory??


Did it work? Kinda, yeah. I've thrown in a few photos, too. Helps to set the scene in a few places.


 

Day 1

Wild Guess

London ➡ Stockholm

The extended introduction felt apt for the first track on the album, and matched the mild, favourable flying conditions as we crossed the North Sea. The chorus feels nostalgic, and the song as a whole definitely sets the tone for the rest of the album.


Day 2

The End of the Contender

Stockholm

This was the third single released from Mountainhead. as EE songs go, it's fairly middling, but equally it fits the same style as Wild Guess whilst sharing parallels with Raw Data Feel. It matched the day's itinerary well: bumbling around above and below ground in a foggy Stockholm.


Day 3

Cold Reactor

Stockholm

I wasn't originally sold on this when it was released alongside The Mad Stone in November last year, but it's very much grown on me. It's one of those songs that you can tell will be great live (I'm seeing EE in Manchester in late March 2024). This was one of the colder days in Sweden, so the name is sort of fitting...?


Day 4

Buddy, Come Over

Stockholm

I listened to this whilst walking along the southern edge of Djurgården, arguably the most picturesque (and greenest, usually) of the central islands in the Stockholm archipelago. I'm usually not one for playing music through a phone speaker in public - not least because it butchers the finer details of most songs - but there were no fellow walkers nearby and I'd left my headphones at the hostel.


This was the first track in the album that stood out from the rest of the album so far (in a good way). It was also the first song in the album that I felt a strong urge to re-listen to later in the day, in part due to the above-mentioned anti-social nature in which I first heard it. The bridge is really strong without being overcomplicated, and kick in the chorus lands better each time it comes around.


Day 5

R U Happy?

Stockholm ➡ Oslo ➡ Bergen

Another great ambient track that was perfect for a travel day. The breakdown after the second chorus is reminiscent of Teletype from Raw Data Feel. Listening back, it reminds me of the first leg of a 700-kilometre rail journey through the picturesque Scandinavian Peninsula: a mixture of frozen lakes and vibrant taiga biomes across north-west Sweden.


Day 6

The Mad Stone

Bergen

The use of Boomwhackers throughout the song is novel, quirky, slightly left-field, and beautifully EE. Compared to the intentionally restrained verses, the chorus feels epic, something which matched the panoramic views from the hostel. The Mad Stone complemented Cold Reactor well when they were released as a pair last year.


Day 7

TV Dog

Bergen

A quaint and curious track whose brief 2m09s appearance feels more like a cameo than a full feature. Almost forgettable. Almost.


TV Dog reminds me of Golden from Fall Out Boy's 2007 album Infinity on High: it feels a bit out of place in the wider context of the album (and the artist), but as a standalone track it's quite a good listen. This ended up being the track that fell on my birthday, which I actually didn't mind.


Day 8

Canary

Bergen

A track that starts with a beautiful, soft first verse that feels like it's building to a high-BPM chorus, but somewhere in the pre-chorus the momentum goes and the song falls flat. Definitely not a song I'll instinctively relate to this trip when listening back.


Day 9

Don't Ask Me To Beg

Bergen ➡ Oslo

A really, really catchy hook that's potentially overused throughout the four-minute track. There's a funky beat and bassline underneath large sections of the song that reminds me of Bastille's Good Grief at times.


Another travel day, this time through the frozen expanse of Vestland, home to many of Norway's stunning fjords; today's song didn't quite match the vibe of the day's itinerary, but the song was good regardless.



Day 10

Enter the Mirror

Oslo

I listened to this on my second night in Oslo. This is a great 'evening drive' track, thanks to the syncopated pulsing synth chords that form the backbone of the song. One of those tracks that you could suit both during a relaxed autumn evening and a warm day in early summer with ease.


Day 11

Your Money, My Summer

Oslo

The backing harmonies in the chorus feel really familiar and nostalgic, but with their own EE twist. Weirdly, the first comparison that comes to mind is the intro to Kygo's remix of A-ha - Take on Me. Listening to this again on the flight back to the UK a few days later was vaguely poetic, with "I spent your money" (very true) and "God knows I wanna go home" (less true) being the two lines of note.



Day 12

Dagger's Edge

Oslo ➡ Copenhagen

Not one of my favourites. The track picks up from 2m10s onwards, but when the best part of an average song is past the halfway point it's a bit pointless as you've lost the audience.


Day 13

City Song

Copenhagen

Like if you crossed The Weeknd's Save Your Tears with elevator muzak. It's got a bit of a kick and a few nice guitar riffs in the final third, plus it builds fairly well throughout. However, putting your longest track second-last on an album is a bold move.


The back end of this album will forever remind me of chilling in my bunk (pod, really) in the hostel after an idiotically long day of walking around Copenhagen. Another track with an apt title.


Day 14

The Witness

Copenhagen

Probably one of my least favourite songs from the album, and a bit of a flat, discordant song to end on. I'm glad that Day 15 gave me the chance to go through the album again on the flight back and cherry-pick my favourites. This did not make the shortlist.


What I will say is that it feels like the final song in the album. Hard to pinpoint exactly why, but listening to it feels like the end of... Something.



Day 15

Recap

Copenhagen ➡ Manchester

I should probably have started this post by saying that, overall, I enjoyed the album - I would have sold my ticket for EE's gig if this wasn't the case. There were no songs that I would actively avoid listening to again, though I definitely had favourites (which I'll get to in a mo).


It was a very different experience exploring the album in such an unorthodox, 'staggered' way, but because of the fact that I was almost forcing myself to listen to each song and give it a dedicated window of attention it actually enhanced my enjoyment of a couple of tracks which I might not have originally appreciated on their first listen.


Top Picks

The Mad Stone

I was drawn to this immediately when I first heard it last year. It feels like a reprise from their 2017 album A Fever Dream but with a modern, new-age EE twist added.


Buddy, Come Over

As mentioned above, it was the first track in the album that I actively wanted to give another listen. This was the turning point in the album where I was like "yeah, I get what you're going for here, and I'm up for it".


Enter the Mirror

There's an understated anthemic nature to the chorus of Enter the Mirror. It feels like the kind of hook that could quite easily feature in a high-energy dance track in years to come, but it equally stands strong as its own piece of music.



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