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Some Sweet Relief

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Album Review

Speck Mountain's debut album owed much of its lush ambience to Mazzy Star, the seminal dream pop band that blazed a similarly trippy trail during the 1990s. Released three years later, however, Some Sweet Relief finds the group paying homage to its soulful side, particularly the Staple Singers, while maintaining the dreamy foundation that upheld 2006's Summer Above. A bluesy undercurrent runs beneath the album's puddles of organ and chiming guitar, and some of the album's best moments occur whenever that undercurrent bubbles up into the mainstream: the soul-singing coda of "Backsliding," the urban trip-hop swagger of "Angela," the neo-spiritual title track, and the flashes of Stax-styled saxophone in "I Feel Eternal." Marie-Claire Balabanian is a versatile singer throughout, capable of dissolving her alto into a sea of gauzy, harmonized coos or locating the blue note in an otherwise summery melody. This may be consciously uncomplicated music, a style that relies as much on atmospherics and emotional nuance as the chord progressions themselves, but Balabanian adds a bit of weight to the mixture, allowing reverb to surround her voice without shrouding its distinctive, husky tones. For those raised on dream pop bands and space rock songs, Some Sweet Relief sounds somewhat timeless, a 40-minute offering of neo-psych gospel that's more polished, more promising, and altogether stronger than most of the band's contemporaries.


Formed: 2005 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

The dreamy soundscapes of Speck Mountain first took shape in Brooklyn, NY, where founding members Karl Briedrick (guitar) and Marie-Claire Balabanian (vocals, bass) held their first rehearsals in 2005. Evoking the vocals of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and the lush orchestrations of space rock, the band honed its sound while playing with temporary member Jackie Ciliberti (organ/electric piano). Ciliberti was later replaced by multi-instrumentalist Kate Walsh, and the trio relocated to Chicago. Summer...
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Some Sweet Relief, Speck Mountain
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