By Alessandro Improta
Mythic Valley is the joining of longtime local musicians Tommy Gunn and Anthony Aman. A year after coming together they have released their first EP, Full Moon. For those who have followed Tommy Gunn for a while, they will recognize some of the tracks as old Tommy Gunn songs rearranged for a full band setting. Transitioning from a solo acoustic act to a full band is not just a matter of simply adding instruments. Really, it requires rewriting the songs to fit what the band can provide. It was interesting to see how this was done.
If there is one consistently positive aspect to this EP, it is the vocals. The lead vocal is always interesting and well executed. Gunn provides some wonderfully passionate moments and has a very distinctive voice that fits the genre perfectly. On “Sadie” in particular, Gunn’s voice sounds how Marcus Mumford (lead singer of Mumford & Sons) would sound if he sang on the track “Factory” by Band of Horses. It’s at once atmospheric and naturally raw.
As great as the lead vocals are, the backup vocals are my favorite element in the entire release. Back up vocals are used for harmony, yes, but more interestingly they are often used within Full Moon as a separate instrument. “A While” is a perfect example of this. Throughout the song there are great harmonies and heavily effected backup vocals. The use of vocals from 2:52 to 3:03 is a perfect example of brilliant arrangement. They use these backup vocals to create a chord with the right tension to lead smoothly into the next section. Very smart.
Lyrically this EP is interesting. You can never claim that Mythic Valley is ever disingenuous in their lyrics. However, you can – at times – claim that they are not very clever. Thematically, though, they are always honest and contain deeper meaning than they may appear to at surface level. “Sadie” is a song that speaks pretty clearly about a girl’s loss of innocence due to some traumatic experience that is never clearly stated, but the listener can infer. This song really portrays Mythic Valley’s willingness to be real about what they write about.
However, there are times throughout the EP that the lyrics seem forced – the kind of thing where something is written because it rhymes, not because it adds value. I’ve got to give Mythic Valley some credit though. Often forced lyrics are so meaningless or nonsensical that they either add no value or detract from the music. This isn’t the case on this record. At their best, Mythic Valley writes great lyrics. At their worst, they’re still writing adequately about substantial and challenging topics. Well done, guys.
There is some magic in this EP. It is raw, occasionally emotional, and has its moments of brilliance. The mandolin part on “A While” is infectious, and the opening of “Sadie” is very artistic and sets a great tone for the rest of the song. But “Come Clean,” in my opinion, is the strongest track on the album. It’s because all of the best elements of Mythic Valley come together in this one song. Lyrically, it is my favorite. It is the best arranged for full band (except in that it probably contains way too many cymbal swells) and it has the strangely attractive charm that Mythic Valley has throughout the EP that I believe comes from the rawness of the mix. The verses in “Come Clean” are so great! The melody is catchy, and the groovy, heartbeat bass line and straight ahead drum beat keep the listener’s head bobbing throughout. Not all tracks have this instant magic, though. “I Bought a Knife” will definitely be polarizing. Some at Reach Provo really dig it. Others, like me, not so much.
All in all, Full Moon is solid outing. There are aspects to improve on, but it is a promising first release. Mythic Valley deviates from the typical “Provo folk band” feel by incorporating strong Americana roots into their full band folk music. If you like folk, it’s definitely worth a listen.
Make sure to like Mythic Valley on Facebook. You can stream the entire EP from Spotify below. They are holding an official EP release show tonight at Muse Music. Doors open at 8PM. Tickets are $7 at the door. The first twenty people in the door will receive a free copy of the new EP.