These Mountains Are Safe
Stately, slowly unfolding dreampop is the order of the day on Shapes Stars Make’s debut album These Mountains Are Safe. The Dallas trio’s music owes something to the Velvet Underground/Jesus and Mary Chain tradition, as well as Radiohead and assorted ambient composers. Offering tracks with and without lyrics, SSM comport themselves with a chamber-music-like formalism that demands close attention. “Giant Bird” embodies the more abrasive side of their sound, building from serene passages into abrasive eruptions. The brooding “(We Are) The Hurting” and the chiming, volatile “Fireflies and Lights” feature Michael Gooden's ruminative, slightly pained vocals. More ethereal is “The Calm,” a gust of indie-pop atmospherics. “Be Gentle, Young One” resonates with an understated spirituality that’s almost Eastern in tone. Trudging tempos and a generally somber outlook make These Mountains Are Safe challenging at times. These pieces benefit from an otherworldly grace and sense of yearning, rendered by the band with an air of quiet conviction.