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When the Air Is Bright They Shine

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Album Review

This is Henning Wandhoff's third Mountaineer release and the one that received the most promotion so far. This finely crafted yet slightly unremarkable album plays the brevity card, presenting ten songs in 37 minutes. Mountaineer know how to keep things short: no superfluous choruses, no outstretched introductions, but no sense of rushing things or cutting ideas short, either — everything is worked out for the song, and it works. This pop sensibility is framed in a largely acoustic context: acoustic guitars, understated drums, a quiet bass, some distortionless electric guitar, a touch of electric piano, and discreet back vocals. Several songs lean toward country-folk and bossa nova arrangements, a strange blend that evokes in turn Caetano Veloso and the quieter moments on the The's Mind Bomb and Dusk. But if When the Air Is Bright They Shine occasionally matches the musicianship of both these reference points, it never soars to the same artistic heights. Why? For one, Wandhoff's murmuring voice, as pleasant as it is, bears no distinctive traits. Second, the songs, as well-crafted as they are, lack the kind of catchy hooks or gripping build-ups that would make you hit the "repeat" button. And that is where Mountaineer's approach hurts them the most. Listening to this album, you cannot find anything irritating, offensive, or wrong with its ten songs (and none of them is subpar), yet you do not feel compelled to listen to it again. There is such a thing as being too understated. Highlights include "A Town Called Ivanhoe" and "Eliza (A Day for Every Hour)," but at the end of the day, neither these songs nor the other ones will leave you marked. ~ François Couture, Rovi

When the Air Is Bright They Shine, Mountaineer
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