The soundtrack to every summer festival (ever) has been written by a quartet from Philadelphia called Mt. Joy.
In our increasingly digital world where nothing seems to be as it once was the one thing everyone appears to be seeking is authenticity. Both in ourselves and the entertainment we enjoy, we seek out authentic experiences and emotions. We want to take in all life has to offer, soaking up every last drop of sunshine and counting every last star in the sky, all while making our dreams come true on our terms. We want all these things, but all too often we settle for much less. We accept less than we deserve out of necessity or exhaustion, sometimes both, yet deep down we still hope for a better tomorrow.
Mt. Joy is what those of us described above aspire to be, or at least they know how to play the part. A quartet started by two friends from Philadelphia who refused to succumb to comforts of adulthood, the folk-friend act with soulful rock tendencies has quickly developed a reputation for sharing wanderlust and romanticism through their brand of modern Americana. The group’s self-titled debut album features thirteen tracks that capture the frustration and confusion of young adulthood in an age unlike any other in recorded history. It’s a brash collection of hope and heartache that promises to bring the vibe of summer festivals to clubs and small theaters around the world even during the coldest months of the year. In other words, it’s the musical equivalent to On The Road if rewritten for today’s generation.
It takes just one song, the opening heartstring-tugger known as “I’m Your Wreck,” for Mt. Joy to make their sound and songwriting style known. A quivering Matt Quinn sings about dreams and romances, typically both unrealized, and the band picks away in a manner that suggests they’re waiting for Quinn to make his next move. When he does, the song builds to match his wail, and when the two come together for the track’s bridge you’re adrift in a melancholy feel-good sound that needs you as much – if not more – than you need it.
There’s a desperation in this record, one that lies in the heart of every person who has looked longingly out their workplace window at the cars on the road with dreams of endless pavement under blues skies in their eyes, and it comes across with significant effect on every track. You haven’t lived the life described in these songs, but you feel like maybe it could have if given a second trip around the sun. Perhaps you wouldn’t go to school. Maybe you would never take that job. Maybe, just maybe, you would listen to your heart and pay the price, but feel grateful all the same.
It’s not all fun and games, however. “Sheep” is a clear example of Mt. Joy recognizing that there is a time and place for everything, including their brand of American whimsy. As much as the record speaks of hazy afternoons shared between runaway lovers it finds something far more meaningful in moments where it addresses that such lifestyles are not possible for many while injustices persist. Call it being woke or otherwise engaged in society, but Mt. Joy want you to know they are not turning a blind eye to the problems of our country and planet. The problem is that like many Mt. Joy has no answers to offer, only the desire to see change happen and that kind of blanket statement cause those tracks to come across a little bland in comparison to the record’s more personal material.
Throughout Mt. Joy’s self-titled debut one cannot help feeling as if they have stumbled upon the next big thing. Like all the greats before them, the members of Mt. Joy have crafted a universally-relatable release that strikes a deeply personal chord with anyone who hears it. Several tracks have found success online, but no one single has managed to crossover to mainstream audiences just yet. When that happens, which is only a matter of time at this point, Mt. Joy will find themselves catapulted to that rarified top 40 air that only one or two new bands a year are allowed to join. Some will say it’s not fair or that the group doesn’t deserve to find success so soon, but those people will be wrong. We will be talking about Mt. Joy for years to come.