We’ve already given a few hints about our feelings for Mountain Battles, the Breeders’ first album since Title TK. In case you missed it before: We’re basically blown away that Kim and Kelly sound so fresh after — relatively speaking — so long. Mountain Battles was recorded over a number of years, across locales, and with different producers (Steve Albini, Erika Larson, Manny Nieto), and languages (German, English, Spanish), but it impressively sounds cohesive and whole. We like some songs less or more than others, but there’re no duds. Basically, the Deal sisters, along with Title TK players drummer Jose Medeles and bassist Mando Lopez. have returned to form to school any number of indistinguishable indie upstarts. Listen up indistinguishable indie upstarts.
Hard picking out a fave. “Walk It Off” feels like an immediate Breeders classic. (Funny that it’s the same name of the Tapes ‘N Tapes album it outclasses.) Then there’s the simple, percussive, hooky jump-rope chants of “Bang On.” Or, the mellow, spacious Pod-like crooning on “We’re Gonna Rise.” We also love the twangy, Deals-do-the-Carter-Family folk of “Here No More”: “Creation sings / mountains bring / age is born / through memory / and lore / upon a saw / tall timbers fall / here no more / here no more.” And, how on “Regalame Esta Noche,” Kelley pulls a Jack White — singing Spanish without knowing the language — but with better results. Then there’s “It’s The Love” and it’s lo-fi guitar sound that feels like a nod to the band’s Ohio neighbors Guided By Voices. OK, while we’re naming everything, how about the launching, rock burst of opener “Overglazed,” the noisier “No Way,” Kim singing propulsively in German on “German Studies,” etc … though at this point there’s not much “etc” left…
Kim’s spoken about adding more overdubs than in the past, but Mountain Battles is still so perfectly spare. The closing title track, which comes out of nowhere, is the most skeletal piece on the record, Kim singing “my heart’s so full and fat / don’t get hurt” over minimal organ hum. It’s bare emotionally too: “I ride shotgun from the facility / whistling blues / and / shrieking luck.” It feels mountainous, but like something frozen at the base. The album’s final words, alongside a peeling, thin guitar thread, are “thinking of things / to do.” Hmm, how about record a brilliant album?
No, there’s no “Cannonball.” There doesn’t need to be.
Mountain Battles is out 4/7 in the UK and 4/8 in the US on 4AD.