The debut, full-length record from the Dallas three-piece Shapes Stars Make, These Mountains Are Safe, is a study in both the great and not-so-great qualities of post-rockin' in the free world.
Produced by John Congleton, These Mountains offers up some rewarding and climactic moments via dramatic chord progressions, lifeblood-pumping drumbeats and triumphantly soaring melodies. But, of course, without those key traits, a post-rock album would serve little purpose above supplying background music for a night of chilling by the incense stick. Unlike so many of Congleton's other projects, though, These Mountains lacks his trademark mischievous unpredictability. And, in the case of certain tracks (and, specifically, the album's opener, "Giant Bird"), Shapes Stars Make comes off as little more than an Explosions in the Sky tribute band, albeit a gifted one.
Points of distinction are evident when the bombast ebbs and the mellow flows, thanks to the delicate tenor of Michael Gooden. Indeed, a limited amount of vocals are showcased here, albeit primarily on the album's softer numbers, where the climbing chords and cinematic arrangements aren't responsible for the heavy lifting. As the borders that the talented Shapes Stars Make creates within begin to expand, so too will its chance of developing a singular voice to call its own.