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The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain 2007 - WITH REVIEWS torrent

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After they released no fewer than five EPs since 2003 and established a reputation both locally and across their home country of Canada through touring and college radio exposure, expectations were obviously high when Ottawa, Ontario’s the Acorn finally got down to recording their official debut full-length album. And considering how much promise past releases like Blankets! and Tin Fist showed, Canadian indie scenesters had every right to be intrigued. So to many, it comes as no surprise at all that the quintet has delivered the goods on what’s turned out to be a very confident first disc for Paper Bag Records, effortlessly combining polite, low-key folk balladry with unique world rhythms and often rousing indie rock. What is surprising, however, is what the band, more specifically singer/lyricist/multi-instrumentalist Rolf Klausener, has to say. You see, while other ambitious bands strive to create a big splash with a sweeping, grandiose statement on their debut (like a certain Montreal band did three years ago), Klausener decided to take a much more personal approach on the new album: paying tribute to his mom.

With a background story that the indie music press will fall head over heels for, Glory Hope Mountain centers on the story of Klausener’s mother Gloria Esperanza Montoya (the title is a loose translation of her name), a life that took her from orphanages, domestic abuse, poverty, natural disasters, and death in her native Honduras, to her long journey north, where new, different hardships awaited her. Not so much a straightforward narrative as a casually assembled series of poetic vignettes, it’s an album that swiftly sidesteps the usual trappings that bog down most concept albums, thanks primarily to Klausener’s skill as a lyricist and a storyteller, as he manages to convey deeply emotional subject matter without resorting to melodrama. And to the credit of the rest of the band, the musical arrangements follow suit, more often than not exercising restraint, save for the odd cinematic crescendo.

Opening track “Hold Your Breath” is a good example of said restraint, Klausener singing in a fragile tenor voice over a musical backdrop that starts with piano, but slowly incorporates more and more instrumentation, until it comes to a graceful, thrumming climax as Klausener contemplates the vibrant Honduran landscape: “The sanctity of soil / Wandering roots and living oils…all around, mountains like diaphragms / The rhythms of a landscape that is breathing.”

What drives this album, and which is something that works so well we wish they did it more often, is the embracing of indigenous percussion and rhythms, similar to that of Paul Simon or Björk, on several tracks. Klausener is said to have researched traditional Honduran Garifuna music while writing the album, and one can’t help but be swept up in the pulsating beats that dominate such standout tracks as the beautiful, gently rousing “Crooked Legs” and the sprightly shuffle of “Low Gravity”, the latter of which is clouded over effectively by distorted percussion and atonal viola notes. Meanwhile, when the focus isn’t on rhythms, Klausener, Jeff Debutte, Keiko Deveaux, T. Jeffrey Malecki, Howie Tsui, and a veritable broken social scene of guest musicians keep things from slipping into indie rock predictability, the usual acoustic and electric guitar often taking a backseat to more varied instrumentation. Whether it’s banjo, ukulele, lapsteel, marimba, or cello, though, it never sounds forced or contrived.

If there’s one song that forms the emotional core of the album, it’s the stirring “Flood Pt. 1”. Over chanted background vocals, handclaps, and a distinct African flavor to the acoustic guitar and percussion, Klausener sings his best lyrics on the album, creating an unforgettable, often chilling image of his young mother surviving a flood: “The rushing river rattlesnakes your legs…You lick your lips and paddle for the levee / The singing banks are sifting through your teeth.” With a straight-ahead rock arrangement serving as an instrumental refrain, it’s a sumptuous blend of folk and rock, a song that revels in its eccentricity but is never bogged down by musical pretensions.

Glory Hope Mountain‘s only fault is that the more vibrant moments that we hear on “Flood”, Crooked Legs”, “Low Gravity”, or “Antenna” don’t sprout up more often. But even its more pedestrian songs like “Plateau Ramble”, “Flood Pt. 2”, and “Lullaby (Mountain)” glow ebulliently, thanks to Klausener’s winning, sincere vocal delivery and of course, those heartfelt lyrics. Not quite a masterpiece, it’s still a minor triumph for the young band, and we can only hope to pay tribute to our own mothers so adoringly.

- popmatters.com

The lyrics by Rolf Carlos Klausener on Glory Hope Mountain sear into the memory like passages from a fine novel, and while the songs chronicle pivotal and challenging moments in his Honduran mother's life, the narrative is indirect, impressionistic. It isn't necessary to work out the story to take it under your skin, but don't be surprised to find yourself returning repeatedly to the lyric sheet to tease out the details of Gloria Esperanza Montoya's journey from rural Honduras to the streets of Montreal. The music - so understated that it's easy to miss how jaw-droppingly good it is - employs in a wholly natural way the traditional Garifuna rhythms that Klausener's begun exploring in recent years, with enormous percussion provided in part by James Bunton and Ryan Carley of sister band Ohbijou. From the anthemic heights of "Low Gravity" and "Flood" to the exquisite prayer of "Glory," The Acorn's new album is not only definitive, it's quietly magnificent.


- EYE Magazine

Ottawa-based, The Acorn have turned out their most stirring work yet. Glory Hope Mountain, their second full length disc and first at Paper Bag Records, is musically, lyrically and spiritually based on the childhood experiences of lead singer/songwriter Rolf Klausener’s mother, Gloria Esperanza Montoya. A romantic idea that came to Klausener seemingly at random.

“My father was always talking about the importance of documenting family and I never really knew a lot about my mom’s life,” he explains, “I was just thinking about it one day at band practice, and right at the end of practice, I said to the boys ‘what if we did an album based on my mom’s life?’” The rest of the band, consisting of Jeff Debutte, Howie Tsui, T. Jeffrey Malecki, and the newly added Keiko Devaux, happily agreed. It is, after all, a story well worth telling.

Over an eight-week period, Klausener and his mother met regularly. In talks, her struggles growing up in Honduras surfaced almost immediately, strengthening the bond between mother and son as easily as feeding the content of Glory Hope Mountain.

Klausener won’t fully divulge his mother’s plight. Her mother died during childbirth, her father was not the kindest of men, and despite finding refuge from her family farm in a Catholic boarding school for a few years, ultimately, Montoya made her way to Montreal.

The events that unfolded in between are refolded into Klausener’s telling of his mother’s tale. “A lot of the details are mixed and weaved into metaphor,” Klausener admits, further noting that balancing the literal and the metaphorical was of great concern in the songwriting process. In the end, the metaphorical side clearly won out, resulting in beautiful tales of the Honduran landscape set to a mix of rock and folk music that vibes Montoya’s homeland.

The nod to Honduran sounds, mostly native Garifuna music, is not accidental. Klausener studied old Smithsonian field recordings of the music, something he came upon through hard work and research. What he and the band drew from listening to those recordings, beyond the heart-drums, gut-strings, elastic vocals, and marimbas, was its philosophy.

“In the research, I read that everything they did was made by hand. They would use things around them to create instruments. So we took that to heart: using what’s around to create something different,” Klausener explains.

And Glory Hope Mountain achieves just that. From concept to completion, it's a testament to the band’s ability to create something different; something with heart and meaning, and something that sounds modern yet old-world all at once.

“I don’t know if it’s something about getting older, but you really start to want to take pride in your craft. I just wanted to tell stories. I really wanted to write songs that I felt I could sing for years to come.”

- ukula.com

Artist: The Acorn
Album: Glory Hope Mountain
Date Of Release: September 2006
Genre: AlternaFolk, Singer-Songwriter, Indie Pop
Bitrate: VBR --alt-preset extreme

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