There’s so much fraud in the world—MonaVie juice, “i-Dosing,” Michele Bachmann—that when I come across purity now I almost don’t recognize it. In that vein, I’d hesitated to listen to Mount Wittenberg Orca, the online-only collaboration by Bjork and Dirty Projectors with a lovely cover photo. I was afraid it’d be forced. It isn’t. Rather, it’s one of the most unaffected, honest things I’ve come across all year.
Or is it? As my correspondent Dean Tisthammer points out, the mountain pictured on the album cover is clearly not Mount Wittenberg in Point Reyes National Seashore. You can view the real Mount Wittenberg here. This might just be a slight misunderstanding, I thought. Surely, they’re referencing some other Mount Wittenberg? But alas, the explanation from Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth:
Amber from Dirty Projectors was walking along a ridge on Mount Wittenberg, north of San Francisco. She was looking out at the ocean and saw a little family of whales, as you sometimes do in April on the Northern California coast. I wrote some songs about it and sent them to Björk, who agreed to sing the part of the mom whale. The songs became Mount Wittenberg Orca.
So the album’s called Mount Wittenberg Orca after the Point Reyes mountain, but with an imposter mountain on the cover? No love for the real Mount Wittenberg? Just what the bejeezus mountain is pictured?
Dean, a huge Dirty Projectors fan who hikes often in the area, says it’s Black Mountain, near Point Reyes. A Google Maps search confirms it—the photo was evidently shot just off Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, east of Point Reyes Station. Which seems to indicate that Longstreth & Co. googled “Mount Wittenberg” for a cover photo, didn’t come up with anything (we barely did either), and settled for some other mountain in Point Reyes, assuming it’d glide past the eagle eyes of nature-hiking Dirty Projectors fans.
Kudos to Dean for the tip.
Fake representations of mountains aside, the album is short and sweet—those enamored with Medulla‘s vocal-heavy arrangements will especially be smitten. You can download it on a sliding-scale donation basis here. All proceeds benefit the National Geographic Society’s ocean initiatives, too.
Best Lyrics: Magnetic Fields – Distortion
The album title, Distortion, refers to the Psychocandy-esque fuzz that permeates every song on this album—making it sound drearier and more hungover than anything you’d expect from Magnetic Fields. But holy bejeezus, the lyrics are a goddamn hoot. Some reviews of the album have actually complained about the lyrics in particular, citing Stephen Merritt’s ongoing “downtrodden, sad-sack schtick,” causing me to wonder if Noel Coward could very well be out of work if he was born in the 21st Century. Making mirth out of the morose is a tight market these days, apparently.
From “The Nun’s Litany”:
I want to be a topless waitress
I want my mother to shed one tear
I’d throw away this old, sedate dress
Slip into something a tad more sheer
I want to be an artist’s model
An odalisque au naturel
I should be good at spin the bottle
While I’ve still got something left to sell
From “Too Drunk To Dream”:
Sober, life is a prison
Shitfaced, it is a blessing
Sober, nobody wants you
Shitfaced, they’re all undressing
No one should listen to any Magnetic Fields album before they listen to 69 Love Songs, but for the already initiated, the sharply pained ribaldry of Distortion’s lyrics will remind you of at least one of a hundred reasons why you fell in love with the band in the first place. They’re playing two nights at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco on Feb. 28-29, and man, is it ever sold out.
Best Sonic Quality: Black Mountain – In The Future
I saw Black Mountain late last December and it was undoubtedly one of the year’s highlights. I drove down to the show in San Francisco on a complete whim and had no idea what to expect, brandishing only an ardent fascination with their self-titled debut, released three years ago.
The lights went down. The guitar amplifier billowed smoke. The drums illumined with each bass kick. The voices of Amber Webber and Stephen McBean cavorted together, intertwined, above a thundering morass. I was stupefied.
In The Future doesn’t quite capture all of Black Mountain’s hazy bombast, and its songs aren’t as classic as those on the band’s first record, but it’s a mind-transporting headphone album nonetheless that just sounds great. They’re playing at the Independent in San Francisco on Monday, Feb. 4.
Strange New Band: MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
They’re too hippie-sounding for the fixed gear crowd but they’re, like, too concerned with their own image for the stoner crowd. I still can’t figure out if I like ‘em or not. Their video, though, is an absolute work of art. So, yeah: strange new band.