[29 January 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Already, the band Mt. Royal (not to be confused with, you know, a hill in the Canadian city of Montreal) is garnering comparisons to Beach House. For two reasons. One, both bands employ a female singer. Two, both groups hail from Baltimore. And, to these ears, that’s where such comparisons should end. Mt. Royal is an indie rock outfit of its own pedigree, and goes further beyond being a mere knock off. Speaking of knock offs, as in “knock my socks off”, vocalist Katrina Ford is something else. Unless you’re really listening closely and paying attention to the group’s debut six-song EP or short album, you would be understood if you thought it were a man singing. Her voice is low and baritone-y, and caresses the listener’s ear like a wet sultry kiss. It is something else. And it arguably elevates much of the material on this recording to more than an also-ran status.
Which is to say, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of stuff that interests sonically on Mt. Royal. However, the EP doesn’t really congeal well as a whole – it’s better taken on by its individual cuts. The cold “Yes Your Majesty” might be the best song on here, as there’s a certain propulsion in the bass line that runs underneath this iceberg of a track. But “Blackthorn” also sticks out with its Rhodes piano line and its thumping drums. And final song “What’s On My Grave?” is a moving ballad, one that gives Ford gravitas in a stunning vocal performance. However, there’s not much of a thread that runs through these songs, and they just feel a little on the strung together side. Still, this is a band with clear talent to spare, and it’ll be interesting to see what approach the group might take on a full-length record. But just don’t call them the next coming of Beach House. They hold absolutely nothing on the soothing sounds of that certain Baltimore duo. Mt. Royal is just something else entirely, and that’s the way it should be.