Everest - On ApproachA funny thing happened to Everest on the road to releasing their second album. The plan was to release the album on Vapor Records, just as they had released their 2008 album, Ghost Notes. Suddenly a sort of ‘stop the presses’ e-mail appeared in my inbox shortly before the April 20 release date. It seems that Everest had a very successful SXSW showcase, so successful in fact that it resulted in the band jumping to Warner Brothers Records with their new album On Approach, which caused the album to be delayed for a few weeks. It’s here now though, and it’s living proof that once in awhile even the major record labels make a smart decision. Now we can only hope that the new album gets the marketing push that it so richly deserves.

On Approach also proves that once in awhile even I make a good call musically. When Ghost Notes came out in 2008, I thought the band definitely had something. They weren’t quite there yet, but I thought they might turn out to be special. Some bands grow little by little, and finally reach greatness. Some put out a strong album and then wallow in mediocrity for the rest of their career. Rarely does band show promise on their first album and then deliver on the promise big time on their second album. When I think of bands that have achieved this feat, I conjure up names like The Band. Use the comments section to let me know about bands that you think showed promise on their first album then delivered a fully mature second album.

Back when Gram Parsons was pioneering the fusion known as “cosmic cowboy music,” it was a bold joining of rock and country. As countless bands followed in his footsteps, the music began to lose the country influence little by little. I’m not judging, it just happened. In its place rose something called Americana, which in turn morphed into the kind of edgy sonic experiments conducted by Wilco. This new genre doesn’t have a name yet, but it is characterized by a blend of Americana, rock, prog, pop, and soul music, with just a bit of the old country vibe remaining. Welcome to this new world the L.A.-based band Everest.

For On Approach, Everest adopts the old school idea of creating a two-sided vinyl album with a story that proceeds in a straight line from the start of the first track to the fade of the last. Although there’s nothing vintage about the music, the concept certainly is. From the opening amplifier buzz and drumstick count off of the opening track “Let Go” (one of my favorite tracks of the year), through the live feel of “Keeping the Score,” the rootsy rock of “East Illinois,” and the ominous, hard rocking “House of 9’s”, On Approach is an album possessed of a powerful and consistent vision.

On Approach was mixed by Rob Schnapf who has landed a solid one-two punch with the release of this album just weeks after the Dr. Dog album Shame, Shame, which he produced. I continue to expect big things from Everest. If this album is just the approach, I can’t wait to see what happens when they get to the mountain top. As it is, On Approach is my runaway choice for the best album of the year so far.