A band made up of five singer/songwriters, all of whom are multi-instrumentalists and music industry lifers, would point to a storm of egos when making an album -- or at least a disjointed album after everyone gets his two cents in. Everest are just that band, five L.A. area musicians who've all done time in a plethora of touring bands and came together in the late 2000s to form a session players' supergroup of sorts. With its third album, Ownerless, the band of talented songwriters somehow escapes a "too many cooks" situation, and delivers a cornucopia of earthy sounds, with several discernibly different songwriting styles attributable to the respective writers. Following a year or so of intense touring in support of their sophomore album, On Approach, as well as a label change, Everest regrouped and rethought their process in the writing and recording of Ownerless. Eschewing any set personnel roles, the bandmembers switched instruments freely, collaborating on both songwriting and arrangements. Production duties, handled by renowned producers Rob Schnapf and Richard Swift along with the band, render a crisp and buoyant end product, with brilliantly focused guitar tones and vocal presence from the barnburning opener of "Rapture" to the dusty desert crawl of the album-closing title track. Despite a great sound, the album suffers from a jagged inconsistency, partially from the various songwriting influences and partially due to the listless lack of color or verve in a good portion of the material. Moving between pandering midtempo Americana-leaning rock like "Give a Little," pseudo-experimental moods like "Never Disappoint," and alt-country lounge numbers like "Letter," Ownerless aims for several marks without ever seeming too excited about hitting any of them. Thanks to prime production and tasteful playing, the experience doesn't come off as disjointed as much as uninspired and hard to engage with. The album's strongest moment comes in the mellow jangle and fluttering organ tones of "Raking Me Over the Coals," a song co-written by onetime Jayhawks/Golden Smog member Gary Louris. The tune's melancholic '90s college radio country-rock phrasing and well-worn chord progressions offer more resolution and songcraft than anything else on the largely wandering album and make the song stand out. It may also be the most predictably written tune of the set, but it's easily the most resonant, possibly because of its familiar feel. While some other songs get closer to that kind of stabilized greatness, much of the album leaves the listener with too many directions of sound but nothing much to hold on to.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas