The Palace Brothers

The Mountain EP

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Like the previous An Arrow Through the Bitch, The Mountain EP compiles a pair of Palace singles for U.K. audiences. The title cut was the first and only Palace single to also appear on a proper album, in this case the brilliant Viva Last Blues -- strangely, it's perhaps the weakest song on the LP, and consequently the least-effective single Will Oldham had yet released. Beginning with the inexplicable couplet, "If I could f*ck a mountain/Lord, I would f*ck a mountain," the song's weirdly jaunty melody quickly grows tedious, and although on the LP it serves as part of a much bigger picture, when stripped of its proper context it's completely lifeless. Much better is the flip side, "(End Of) Travelling," which complements one of Oldham's most passionate vocals with a swooning pedal steel lead. On the other hand, the "Gulf Shores"/"West Palm Beach" single, first issued on Drag City a year earlier, remains perhaps the loveliest moment in the Palace canon, boasting a languid, doleful beauty calling to mind slowcore acts like Red House Painters. Couched by shimmering, ringing guitars and jazz-like drums, Oldham evokes the stark desolation of off-season Florida tourist traps also brought memorably to life in Victor Nunez's brilliant film Ruby in Paradise -- though their titles may suggest something closer to Jimmy Buffett singalongs, both "Gulf Shores" and "West Palm Beach" capture the artifice and loneliness of tropical life with poignant accuracy.

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