PREMIERE: Mountainess Eulogizes Songs Ruined by Bad Break-Ups With “Soundtrack”

Photo Credit: Sasha Pedro

It feels almost like a cruel fate for anyone who cares deeply about music: we tend to build entire relationships with like-minded individuals around the songs we bond over. From attending concerts with loved ones to sharing mixtapes that say what we can’t, or even just putting on a record while making dinner (or making out), music helps us build stronger connections. It’s not until those relationships deteriorate, souring memories and ruining those songs in the process, that we see just how disastrous this can be. When a song brings back the memory of love lost, sometimes it’s too painful to ever listen to that song again.

Emily Goldstein, who releases her solo work under the moniker Mountainess, has experienced this all-too-common scenario firsthand. Her latest single, “Soundtrack,” premiering today via Audiofemme, unearths the artist’s long-buried aversions to Sam Cooke and Mount Eerie, artists she couldn’t listen to for years following a bad break-up with a former bandmate. “‘You Send Me’ had been our song. It wasn’t even just that song – I couldn’t listen to Sam Cooke, who has one of my favorite voices ever. It just brought me back immediately,” Goldstein remembers. She started writing “Soundtrack” years later, when she was finally able to revisit that music, and could reflect on its effect over her without the residual pain of the break-up. “I recognize that some of that power – well, all of that power – is kind of given in a way, but it can feel like [an ex can] take the things you love,” she says. “You don’t just lose them and the relationship, you lose anything that you associated with the relationship.”

She felt immediate validation when she shared “Soundtrack” in a songwriting workshop at Brown University, and the other attendees said they’d been through it, too. “That was a very lovely feeling to have. It’s really easy to write stuff and feel like other people are gonna connect to it because they share your experiences, but then they don’t all the time,” Goldstein confides. “I feel like when you have that moment with a song that becomes such an important form of connection.”

Over warbly synth, with crystal-clear delivery, Mountainess expresses relatable nuggets of wisdom: “I let you build the soundtrack/I wish I hadn’t done that/You claimed and gave those tunes with a reckless abandon/Now even when they’re droning low in some department store/You’re there insisting the songs are yours.” A visualizer by longtime Mountainess co-conspirator Hope Anderson scrawls Goldstein’s poignant lyrics across the label of a cassette tape, the perfect hit of heartfelt nostalgia for those pre-streaming days, when personalized mixes stood in for love letters.

“Soundtrack” is the third single from Goldstein’s second Mountainess EP, out February 12. Its five tracks center on the empowerment she felt after moving from Boston to Rhode Island and completing her first EP as a solo performer, which she released in 2017. The ambitious self-titled debut saw her exploring a lost family history over a backdrop of swooning string arrangements, a decision she pursued in an effort to differentiate her musical output from the “dramatic, sort of theatrical rock” she played with her previous band.

Striking out alone was exciting, but scary at first, she says. “I’d always had collaborators – and they’d always been male collaborators. And I just didn’t feel very confident in my ability to produce anything without their feedback,” she admits. “Ultimately, [Mountainess] has grown to have collaborators in it, but it started out just as me playing keyboard in the various folky venues around Providence.”

Though proud of her debut and what she’d learned from the process, the emotional weight of the material and the belabored process of adding strings prompted a shift in direction. “After doing it, it was like, oh wow, I wanna write things that feel a little more pop,” Goldstein says. “I wanted to move toward [themes of] empowerment, cause I think I was a feeling more empowered after writing that [first EP]. I had to get that out of my system, but it was very heavy and emotionally raw.”

Goldstein’s hard-won confidence is apparent from the first track on the new EP, which kicks off with “Attention,” a single she released in September. Her straightforward, triumphant vocal emphasizes her background in musical theater, while she sings clever turns of phrase about the travails of performing for a living: “For every guy who thought I’d die without his bland suggestion/To be less or more or something for his dubious affection/Well, I won’t apologize/for chewing the scenery/Your attention, please!”

“I had this experience a lot, but playing alone kind of amplified it: every time I played, I would get unsolicited feedback, always from white dudes. I actually started keeping a little journal of it. Sometimes it was even positive, but none of it felt good to receive,” Goldstein says. “Being a performer, being also a bit of an introvert in my private life, I am asking for attention – that song is about exploring what I want out of that attention and setting my boundaries within that.”

Another single from the EP, the doo-wop infused “Vacation,” was written during a residency in Martha’s Vineyard, which Goldstein spent creating an as-yet unproduced musical based on Lady Chatterley’s Lover. “It was such a surreal experience. It was February [2019], I was completely alone for that whole week, and being around that kind of wealth created this character that could just vacation [on a whim],” Goldstein explains. Normally composing on keys, “Vacation” was the first song she’s written on guitar, which she says freed her up to go in a different direction with it. The kitschy, light-hearted lyric video was shot by her partner, Anthony Savino, who also plays on the EP alongside drummer John Faraone and producer Bradford Krieger.

The EP was recorded at Big Nice Studio in Lincoln, Rhode Island, right before the pandemic hit. It just so happened that around the same time, Goldstein moved again – this time to Los Angeles, to work in animation. As surreal as it was settling into a new city during lockdown, in some ways it mirrors the escapist fantasy baked into the sun-kissed verses on “Vacation”: “Do you even miss me?/Everything is new here, but it’s somehow dreary/I sent you a postcard with no return address/I haven’t heard back yet…”

What’s clear across all three singles is Goldstein’s gift with words. “It’s just the way I’m most comfortable expressing myself; I think I’m more comfortable writing my lyrics than I am talking! It feels very natural,” she says with a laugh. “I have an English teacher mom, so I do have a family that’s big on expressing yourself with your words. I have a pretty non-musical family, so music was definitely like a second language, and I think that’s why lyrics come first – that’s the first path towards expressing myself.”

However wise Mountainess sounds as she dispenses her cautionary tale on “Soundtrack,” she recognizes that certain pitfalls are hard to avoid. “I have not followed my own advice at all! I had this idea that I was just going to maybe pursue people whose lives didn’t revolve around music, but I have not been successful in keeping that,” she laughs. “If music is what you love, it’s really one of the major driving forces towards connection. I do think, just like the break-up itself, it takes time – but eventually you will be able to come back to the songs. They’ll maybe hold a little bit of an ache, but sometimes, that ache is good. Maybe it actually ends up adding some good weight to those songs.”

Follow Mountainess on Facebook for ongoing updates.

RSVP HERE: Lola Pistola Plays Our Wicked Lady + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.

Lola Pistola does not plan on stopping anytime soon. With a raw energetic live show that’s not to be missed, Lola Pistola debuted their grunge and noise pop soaked album Curfew last year on Burger Records, toured the US with drummer Robert Preston (who also fronts Pink Mexico), and are closing out the year with a show at Our Wicked Lady on  December 13 with Toward Space, Metalleg, and Johnny Dolphins.

Currently Brooklyn-based, Lola (aka Arvelisse Ruby) grew up in the Puerto Rican punk scene and is also a florist, photographer and contributor to AltCitizen. We chatted with Lola about her love for grunge and NYC’s ’70s punk scene, the changing landscape of New York’s current scene and what her live set would smell like.

AF: What is your favorite part about where you come from and where you are now, both geographically and musically? Where do you want to go?

LP: My favorite part about being from Puerto Rico is how important arts is for creatives and Puerto Ricans in general. No matter the occasion, there’s always music and a sense of community and bonding, whether it’s with family or friends. We have an unusual approach to what we do. I believe Puerto Ricans excel in arts, in music, in theater because we are just moved genuinely by what it means to be oneself and are passionate about our legacy. I loved loved loved being an spectator of the underground punk scene there. It’s chaotic, and loud, and there are many talented and unique bands that are still active after more than 15 years. I think that definitely made me fall in love with music, and learn about the punk scene around the world, specially in Spain and in New York. I’d daydream about playing at CBGB’s, about smoking cigarettes with Debbie Harry, reading poems with Patti Smith, maybe even finding Courtney Love and partying with her too. I feel like now, there’s a lot of that scene that’s undeniably dead. It’s no ones fault. Truly the world is just changing and affecting how we connect with new experiences – how we even promote shows for example. But still, the great thing about New York is the accessibility to local and touring bands, either underground or mainstream, and how there’s a new sound and act popping left and right. For me, I feel like I just want to continue making music, regardless of where I am, and to truthfully to be able to successfully connect with people. I want to continue moving forward where I can be heard, without worrying about scenes, without worrying about how many likes I get on social media. I want to go around the world and back until I fall down or nobody likes my songs anymore. That’s were I want to go.

AF: What shows/bands/artists have had the biggest influence and inspiration on your live set? If your live set was a color what color would it be? What smell would it be?

LP: Let’s just say I spent a lot of time watching Nirvana videos on YouTube using a shitty internet connection. Physically I take on more from movies and dance performances. If my set was a color it would be not a color, but the cathartic after-effect of strobe lights, hinted with the scent of salt water.

AF: If you could share the stage with anyone alive or dead who would it be and why?

LP: I’d love to perform with Iggy Pop, and I don’t think I need to explain why. Present Iggy Pop – full of wise and uncontrollable coolness, and more in control than ever of his voice and vision. His last two albums are definitely part of my favorites of the decade.

AF: When you’re performing do you ever look at a specific stranger and wonder how their day was?

LP: That’s interesting, but not really. I think the whole act, while performing is such an egocentric approach that I am only worried if they can really see me. If I lock eyes with anyone, I just want to make sure they see me.

AF: If you were a street performer and had to do something other than music, what would you do?

LP: A cartoonist.

AF: What are your plans for the next year/decade?

LP: I’m just waiting to be discovered and get a six figure contract, so I can record a couple of bangers and not work anymore. But also, joke aside, I just plan on doing what I do now, just 10 times bigger. I don’t have time to stop now.

RSVP HERE for Lola Pistola, Toward Space, Metalleg, Johnny Dolphins @ Our Wicked Lady  on 12/13. 21+ $10

More great shows this week:

12/13 Pile, Patio, Gabby’s World @ (le) poisson rouge .16+ $16 RSVP HERE

12/13 Nation of Language, Modern Vices, Hideout @ The Broadway. 21+ $12 RSVP HERE

12/13 Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron (ex-Eric’s Trip) @ St. Ann & The Holy Trinity. All Ages $30 RSVP HERE

12/14 Honduras, Dentist, The Zings @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $12.50 RSVP HERE

12/15 Delicate Steve, Dirty Fences, Ackerman @ Brooklyn Bowl $16 21+ RSVP HERE

12/16 John Waters (A John Waters Christmas) @ Sony Hall. All Ages RSVP HERE

12/18 Desert Sharks, Atlas Engine, Shadow Monster, Climates @ Our Wicked Lady. 21+ $10 RSVP HERE

12/19 Samantha Urbani @ ELA Taverna (A Dinner Party). 21+ $50 RSVP HERE

12/19 Silent Night Fest: A Sleep Well Records Holiday Celebration with pronoun + Special Guests @ Elsewhere. 16+ $10 RSVP HERE

ONLY NOISE: Don’t Be In Love With the Autograph

On Monday, Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum posted a lengthy Reddit AMA explaining his reluctance to sign autographs for fans. The statement was originally published in a pamphlet Elverum hands out to concertgoers in search of his John Hancock. The statement is six single-spaced pages and nearly 3,000 words long. In it, Elverum not only questions the implications of autographing records, but instills the custom with philosophical weight. “I believe in equality and I don’t believe in god,” Elverum writes. “I believe that successful and well known people are regular people, of course, and I am made uncomfortable by our tendency as humans to elevate some people while not elevating others.” Elverum feels that the second he takes a Sharpie to his work, he is drawing up a barrier between the genuine human-to-human exchange that took place before this request – such as having a conversation.

Despite his unconventional position on this subject, the artist is quick to turn his argument against himself and examine the issue from every angle, particularly that of the fans. He goes into detail about a childhood collection of football cards that he sent to his favorite player Walter Payton when he was a boy. Payton signed every card and returned them, much to Elverum’s wildest delight. The songwriter claims that these cards remain in his parents’ attic to this day. “These little pieces of cardboard were important to me mostly because the boundary had been crossed and erased between this god-like football man from TV and me, a kid from the forest outside a small town in Washington,” he says. “The autographs represented that breach to me, proof that this special man and I were inhabitants of the same world, and there was a real tangible line between us, with evidence!”

The issue of celebrity signatures didn’t come fully into focus until later in Elverum’s life, after average Joes (and fellow Washingtonians) like Kurt Cobain and Beat Happening’s Bret Lunsford made their own mark on music history. The paradigm shifted for Elverum, who even then wanted to maintain relationships with heroes that didn’t teeter atop golden pedestals. “It’s not that I don’t have long rich fantasies of the conversations and interactions I’d like to have with my favorite artists, writers, thinkers,” he wrote on Monday. “I do. I want to personally know these brilliant people, and I enjoy hearing about their secret unglamorous regular life moments, the mechanics of their normalcy. I enjoy the reminders of my sameness with them because it reinforces the possibilities that lay open for me, always. An autograph is detrimental to all of this door-opening.”

Elverum speaks of a particular day in his adolescence, when the brand new Beat Happening album arrived at a local record store where Bret Lunsford worked. For months Elverum and his pals had been hanging around this shop, “becoming more comfortable, acting cool (we thought), and earning trust and respect.” After Elverum and his two buddies bought the new CD, his friends did something that horrified teenage Elverum. “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][They] took the shrink wrap off the jewel case right there in the store and asked Bret if he would sign it. I felt embarrassment wash over me…I wanted it to be known that I didn’t care if Bret signed my CD.”

Many will disagree with Elverum’s longwinded essay about signing autographs, and even I bristle at some of its melodramatic phrasing, (“I die inside while doing it. My skin crawls. I hate it so much.”) But it’s difficult for me to disagree with Elverum’s stance on this issue, because as a fan, I feel exactly the same way. For years I have wondered why this rite has become so sacred, always preferring to beat the crowd out of the venue to lining up at a merch table for the chance to get an autograph. It seems to be a phony way of meeting your idols, similar to stopping your favorite musician on the street and asking for a selfie. The signature, the picture – the moment in general feels automated and disingenuous. These days I marvel at the reasons someone would want to even meet their artistic heroes, who rarely live up to our image of them, let alone get their autograph.

I say “these days” on purpose. Like Elverum, my childhood was dotted with fandom and autograph requests. I wrote to fan clubs for the signed headshots of Jonathan Taylor Thomas (affectionately known to his fans as J.T.T.) and Rider Strong. I adored the glossy photos, and felt certain that they indicated a special bond between these heartthrobs and me. The last time I remember consciously asking for an autograph from a (somewhat) well-known musician must have been around 2004, when my mom took me to see the ‘80s punk band Youth Brigade in Seattle. Always a master of one-upmanship, my mom gloated to me about how she’d been drinking at the bar with Youth Brigade’s drummer Mark Stern before the band’s set. Envious of my mother’s charisma and ability to legally drink in bars, I was hell bent on getting my own souvenir. After Youth Brigade’s set I spotted lead singer Shawn Stern at the merch booth. He sold me a white band shirt and signed the bottom of it. Even then it was anticlimactic, and if I even still have the t-shirt, it’s been worn and washed so many times, Stern’s signature is likely no more than a faded gray smudge.

My relationship with autographs really changed when yearbooks became a part of my school life. I admit, part of my denial to sign people’s annuals was pure boorishness, but the other part of my argument arose from this question: “What’s the point?” It didn’t make sense to exchange purple Sharpie pleasantries with people I didn’t know or like, and it made even less sense to do it with close friends, who I would see frequently throughout the summer months. Today, asking a professional musician for an autograph makes the least sense. I personally feel more intimacy with an artist by listening to their work and drafting up my own versions of our interconnectedness.

In the fall of 2016, a long distance boyfriend sent me a few packages over the span of our short relationship. Two of these packages contained signed vinyl records – one was a Mark Lanegan 12” signed by Lanegan, and the other was a Cass McCombs/Michael Hurley split 7” signed by Hurley. I was flattered at the time of receiving these presents, but now, long after the relationship dissolved, I wonder what made that guy think I cared about autographs in the first place. What he doesn’t know is that these records are currently slumped up against the rest of my collection, given no special treatment despite their “signed copy” status. Sometimes I even consider giving them to people who would appreciate them more.

Perhaps that is the only capacity in which I can stand to ask for autographs: on someone else’s behalf. Last November Swans played a set of farewell gigs at Greenpoint’s Warsaw. I had no plans on attending, but when a close friend came down with the flu and offered me his ticket, I couldn’t very well say no. My friend was devastated, having purchased his ticket months in advance only to be stuck at home vomiting when the show finally rolled around. I knew I couldn’t leave the gig empty handed, so in an attempt to repay the $50 ticket he’d just gifted me, I went to buy my him a t-shirt. I made my way to the merch table and bought one right before a swarm of fans flocked to the table – apparently Michael Gira was about to start signing autographs. Just as I thought, “Thank god, I can split before all of that hubbub begins” Gira appeared right in front of me, uncapped Sharpie in hand, with an expectant look on his face. I realized in that moment, that though it made me uncomfortable, it would have been far more awkward to tell Michael Gira, “nah, I’m good,” than it would have been to just let him sign the damn thing. I wanted it to be known that I didn’t care if he signed my t-shirt, but it wasn’t for me, anyway.


NEWS ROUNDUP: St. Vincent, Led Zeppelin, & Angel Olsen


  • Watch St. Vincent Perform As A Toilet

    During a benefit concert on Tuesday, St. Vincent performed several songs dressed as a toilet. (There’s probably a great potential for puns here, but we’ll let you take care of that). The benefit was for the song of Annie Clark’s drummer, Jasper Johnson, who is recovering from a severe seizure. Father John Misty,  Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Elysian Fields, Joan As Police Woman, Nina Persson also performed. Check out footage of “Bring Me Your Loves” below:

  • ICYMI: Led Zeppelin Is Innocent

    Rock legends Led Zeppelin were dragged into a lawsuit claiming that “Stairway to Heaven”’s signature guitar riff was actually a ripoff of Spirit’s “Taurus,” an instrumental song from 1968. Though Led Zeppelin had performed with Spirit before, they denied their song, written in 1970, was based off of “Taurus.” Now, the lawyer on Spirit’s side, Francis Malofiy, is being suspended from practicing law for 3 months. Apparently, Malofiy violated a bunch of rules of conduct during a previous copyright infringement lawsuit, involving Usher’s “Bad Girls.” Read more here.

  • Watch Angel Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me”

    Angel Olsen dons a sparkly, silver wig once again in the video she self-directed for “Shut Up Kiss Me.” She also gets pretty wild on a roller skating rink. Check out the video below, and pre-order her upcoming album MY WOMAN here.

  • Support Phil Elverum’s Crowdfunding Campaign

    Phil Elverum, of the Microphones and Mount Eerie is currently raising money for his wife Geneviève, who was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer soon after the couple had a daughter. Other musicians are currently helping the cause by auctioning merchandise; Neutral Milk Hotel is offering a signed box set, and Fugazi and Bikini Kill are auctioning several things. Check out the crowdfunding campaign and auction.

SHOW REVIEW: Mount Eerie w/ La Big Vic

There’s really no entity that compares to the genius of Phil Elverum.  He’s like a mythical creature or enlightened being from another planet.  He’s been actively making music and art for nearly fifteen years under a variety of monikers, with common threads and motifs connecting each project to the next.  His soft, cooing voice sounds bashful but the words they convey are anything but; together they form a cohesive aesthetic whether the tunes are performed as a black metal band or as stripped down acoustic melodies.  I’ve been amazed and inspired by his work for most of my adult life, finally getting to see him play live (in a glorious cathedral no less!) during Northside fest in the summer of 2011.

I saw him again a few months later at le poisson rouge.  The opener both times was Nicholas Krgovich, who put out a 7″ on Phil’s record label P.W. Elverum & Sun.  This is significant because he also accompanied Phil, playing keys and synths and adding backing vocals.  The set for both shows spanned a lot of Mount Eerie material (and there really is so, so much of it) but from show to show was pretty similar.  They were both moving in their own way, although far from my dream set, or what I’d imagined a Mount Eerie set might be like after countless repeated listens to their infamous triple LP recorded live in Copenhagen.

For Saturday night’s show, Brooklyn-based electronic indie pop outfit La Big Vic warmed up the crowd with bouncy set, each beat measured against swirling synths and vocals.  Their smartly crafted dream pop is sort of like waking up from a dream you just had where you were lying on the beach sunbathing but the sky was all shifting neon colors instead of the standard blue.  The majority of the crowd paid rapt attention to the attractive trio, with Toshio Masuda casually looping guitars, Emilie Friedllander bowing a violin or cooing into the microphone, and Peter Pearson manning the keys.

During the set, Phil Elverum and his bandmates could be seen milling about the crowd – putting finishing touches on set-up, selling records, and chit-chatting with fans.  This highlights one of the best aspects of Elverum’s live performances and work in general; despite the emotional depth to his work and its esoteric facets, he is really just  normal guy.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously, preferring to interact with the crowd, making jokes at his own expense.  The band had a little trouble with initial set-up, blowing two amps and lacking connections for some of the instruments, during which Phil took it upon himself to introduce the new material as well as his four touring bandmates, all on loan from their various bands and side-projects.

I was really excited to see him play with a fuller band, especially because the additional vocals sounded particularly heartbreaking.  There was also a fake campfire on stage, which added a bit of kitsch but also a bit of setting, and setting is what the new Mount Eerie material is all about.  In his introductory speech, he’d mentioned that the evening’s setlist was composed of songs taken from each of his two newest records, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar.

These albums were recorded simultaneously in Elverum’s new studio, The Unknown, while he took a year off from touring, and he divided the material into separate records afterward.  He has stated that the records are truly meditations on his hometown in Washington state and what it meant for him to be in that one place, day after day, walking from his home to his recording studio and back and then spending quiet evenings reading about Anacortes history.  They represent two sides of the same coin; Clear Moon is as succinct and glistening as its name might suggest, in exactly the same way that Ocean Roar is murky and embattled, its dense layers rolling over tumultuously over and over one another.  In a live setting, the juxtaposition of the material highlighted the breadth and beauty of the sonic divide.  Moving from quieter, dreamier movements into towering walls of drone, Elverum knitted these conjoined twins back together to stunning affect.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”1161″]