If I could choose only two words to describe Stefanie Parnell’s latest album Mountains Beyond Mountains, they would be “easy listening.” Upon hearing these six fresh tracks, I felt as though the only appropriate place to be enjoying them to their fullest would be on some wicker tree-swing out on the countryside watching the sun cast its final rays of the day. But, alas, I am a city dweller and even despite the lack of relevant surroundings, this album is beautiful all the same.
The album opens with the relaxed, ever-so-slightly country-sounding title track. This was definitely a fitting choice for the album opener, as it sets the tone for the rest of what’s to come — pretty, stand-alone vocals and wailing, echoing guitar that seems to drone on and on in the background, keeping the tempo of the song nice and easy.
After having a taste of Parnell’s softer side, song number two, which also happens to be the first single off the album, called “Make Things Right,” picks up the pace to a straight up twangy, more upbeat take on the folk-country hybrid that she has come to be known for. The song is catchy as hell, and considering it’s about relationship problems, it’s surprisingly the most feel-good-sounding song out of the six — an interesting and refreshing take on a topic that’s usually accompanied by someone feeling sorry for themselves and whining into a mic about it.
With only a backing drum beat and some very light strumming on the guitar as musical accompaniment during the verses, the next song “Stillness” truly highlights the stunning vocals that are the centerpiece of this entire album. I fell absolutely in love with Parnell’s voice upon listening to this song. There is some sort of soothing property to it that makes time slow down and each note ring in your ear, canceling out any other auditory disturbances that you may be in the middle of. The raw emotion in her voice demands your undivided attention as it plucks at your heart strings, making it next to impossible for the song not to resonate with you in one way or another.
This emotion carries through into the following three songs, the last of which is, in my opinion, one of the strongest tracks on the album. What begins with simple acoustic guitar builds up into Parnell repeating “over my head” overtop of layers and layers of both acoustic and electric guitar (which sounds like it could be influenced by Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell’s guitar stylings), trumpet, drums, and violin that come together to create an intense burst of feelings. A more appropriate finale to this album couldn’t even be dreamt.
As a whole, Mountains Beyond Mountains is a perfect example of homegrown talent that is verging on greatness. It’s unbelievable to think that a band that can produce such insanely well-composed and well-performed music isn’t even signed, although after hearing this album, I don’t foresee that being the case for too much longer. If you have any question as to which up-and-coming artist you should be watching out for, let this album be your answer.
Written by Karyna Evangelista