REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Bella Union welcomes newest signing Mt. Royal to the fold with debut EP release

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

As new kids on the dream-pop block, Mt. Royal hit a peak early on in their first outing that they struggle to top in all that follows


Mt. Royal - Mt. Royal (OUT 27TH JANUARY)

The latest notch in Bella Union's ever-growing belt,
Mt. Royal hail from over the pond (Baltimore, Maryland to be precise) and ply their trade in the kind of melodic dream pop we’ve grown to expect from their ever-excellent label home. Apparently originally conceived as an instrumental outfit before the band succumbed wholeheartedly to the considerable vocal talents of Katrina Ford, the six tracks that form their self-titled debut EP suffer somewhat from fledgling growing pains but certainly hint at promising times ahead. Lead song
Missing Reward is the early highlight, propelled along in bombastic fashion by a wonderfully sloppy fuzz bass, stabbing clangs of soul guitar and insistently plinky piano cut straight from the same cloth a
Grizzly Bear's
‘Two Weeks’ as Ford's voice wheels and turns, fluttering gloriously between soothing and soaring. Small wonder on this evidence alone that the band decided to make the singer a permanent fixture - so far, so good. The next two songs aren’t quite so successful alas. The muffled whomp of the urgent drums and ever-rolling keys in
‘Blackthorn’ can't quite disguise the lack of much in the way of a chorus as it meanders on the same groove for three and a half minutes and
‘More’ similarly seems largely driven by a fast and furious bass line with Ford searching for a meaningful melodic hook, happily landing on one in time for quiet-loud crescendo. Next up there’s
‘Yes Your Majesty’ in which Mt. Royal do their best impression of a slightly more upbeat
Beach House (label-mates no less) from the eerily similar vocals to the languid guitar, waves of synth and spacey bridge and at this point
Polica also spring to mind as a handy reference point. Both bands are certainly kindred sonic spirits and to these ears at least ultimately suffer the same fate of a lack of much differentiation across the set. For whilst
‘Mockingbird’ tinkers with the formula with a distinctly
Serge Gainsbourg-esque lilt that neatly recalls daughter Charlotte's recent
Beck-produced exploits, and EP closer
‘What's On My Grave’ initially eschews the bass gymnastics for an organ and vocal lull, by and large the songs on
‘Mt. Royal’ just blend into each other in relatively indistinct manner. That said, the aforementioned 
‘Missing Reward’ serves as a significant exception to that faint praise though so the optimist in me likes to imagine that this EP was largely conceived as a single with five B-sides and they’re holding stuff back for the debut album. We shall see…