Mechanical River LP release
w/ Andrew Combs, The Kernal
Sun. Oct. 8
The Royal American
The cover of Mechanical River’s newest release Posterity says everything about the album. A discolored clay rainbow, a pastel background, and the title in small print. It’s unassuming enough, until the needle drops on the first song, “Tourniquet.” Then it all starts to make sense. The music is simple on the surface, but the longer a listener stares at it, the deeper it all becomes. Posterity’s a perfect primer for new fans of one of Charleston’s favorite indie heroes, just as much as it’s a welcome return for longtime fans of Mechanical River. “I’m treating this album as kind of a first official Mechanical River album, being given a proper release with Electric Lady Records in NYC,” says songwriter Joel Hamilton.
There’s a complexity to the amount of simple layers Hamilton employs when crafting these 13 songs. The opening track begins with a four-note rotation that spins throughout most of the tune, entrancing the listener as the song becomes more ethereal with every instrument that’s added— then it’s just uphill from there.
The lofty extrospection of lead single and fan favorite “Pomelos” has the ability to break hearts and mend souls at the same time with its strange comfort in the face of the inevitable. “Many people want eternal life/ Some don’t want to leave this Earth/ but one day I will learn to die,” sings Hamilton on the song’s climactic lyric.
“By Fathers” is a dreamy indie folk song that illustrates Hamilton’s eye for musical detail. Sonar sound effects dance in the background while a slow static wash of strings and synths overtake the latter half of the tune.
The words of Posterity are world-travelled and thoughtful. They cut deep in a relaxed way, a trait that comes from a natural sense of exploration. “I guess with time and experience comes change and perspective and insight that surely must affect every aspect of a person, and of course the things they create,” says Hamilton.
One of those experiences he’s referring to is a run-in (see: attack) with a bear. “In that moment I feared imminently for my life like I never have before,” he says. “Something like this leaves a mark on you and has the potential to change you in many ways. For me it has affected everything and is absolutely written into the words I write.”
The album, as is typical with Hamilton, balances grand contemplations on the world with hefty introspection. “Don’t smoke cigarettes when your body’s trying to heal/ Keep a journal so you learn from every year/ Question God and whether she’s who put you here/ Don’t give up on me when I become my fears,” he sings on “Two Things at Once.”
He’s had plenty of time to think everything over, since the last Mechanical River release was 2012’s Astral Castle. In that time, Hamilton’s new family has influenced his songwriting. “I’ve got two beautiful boys under four now that have ushered me into a new world that I really never could have anticipated, and I married someone I don’t deserve,” he says. “The boundaries of emotions and experience have been stretched.” And it’s felt across Posterity.