Texas-bred singer/songwriter and Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek announces his new album, Haunted Mountain, out 25 August. His first release for 4AD, Meek also shares the lead single and title track, ‘Haunted Mountain’, a song co-written alongside his friend and long-time hero Jolie Holland.
Following his beloved 2021 album, Two Saviors, Haunted Mountain marks Meek’s third solo album. Haunted Mountain is about love and… something other. Something bigger than love, something that doesn’t challenge love exactly but stands in contrast to it. A soulfulness, or a soul-seeking fullness. Meek says that loves songs are the hardest write. “Not break-up songs, but an actual love song written in earnest? That is taboo now,” he says. “Sometimes it can feel like all the great love songs have already been written.”
Lead single ‘Haunted Mountain’ is anchored by sweet lyrics penned by Meek and Holland, who is also from Texas and shares co-writing credits on five of Haunted Mountain’s 11 songs. The first two verses and chorus of ‘Haunted Mountain’ were written by Holland as a love song to Mount Shasta in northern California, with the final verse written by Meek, together seeking reciprocity with nature. “It’s about being humbled by the thing you’re drawing power from only at which point an actual, fair relationship begins,” he says. Propelled by the pristine chemistry of his band, ‘Haunted Mountain’ is presented alongside a Riley Engemoen-directed video that captures the group’s in-studio magic.
560 miles from Meek’s hometown of Wimberly, TX, the Franklin Mountains – or more reverently named, Sierras de los Mansos – rise over the tops of the endless acres of pecan trees that surround Sonic Round in the border of Tornillo, where Haunted Mountain was recorded. The songs were written in mountains: by sold springs in the Serra de Estela of Portugal, on the submerged volcano of Milos in the Cyclades, Valle Onsernone in the Swiss Alps (where Haunted Mountain’s cover photo was taken), and the Santa Monica range where Meek now calls home – all where his new love was born.
On Haunted Mountain, love often assumes a natural form – crystal ball dew-drops, green rivers and grasses, tears bottled. Sometimes it becomes artificial – mood rings, earrings, a pair of jeans, motorcycles and spacecraft. Sometimes cosmic – “I fell into a black hole with the hot flux of hazel” (from ‘Paradise’). Love is a consciousness here, interacting with the lovers, greeting them, watching them sometimes, becoming them sometimes. It extends beyond romance, examining the inexhaustible bond between mother and sun, and asks – is love a form of magic? “When you are in love, it inhabits your environment, animates the inanimate, charging everything around you with a sense of meaning,” he says. “and not just new love; also love of many years.”
Since Buck’s self-titled full-length album, his band has remained consistent – Adam Brisbin (guitar), Austin Vaughn (drums), and Mat Davidson (pedal steel, bass on Buck Meek and Two Saviors). In the year or so leading up to recording Haunted Mountain, they were joined by Ken Woodward (bass) as well as Meek’s brother, Dylan, who joined them for the session on piano and synths. Produced by the band’s own Davidson, Haunted Mountain was recorded and mixed in two weeks by Adrian Olsen, who also performed the sound manipulation via modular synthesizer that can be heard throughout the album.
One intention was to make a hi-fi album that contrasted with the intentionally lo-fi approach of Two Saviors, while preserving the intimacy. Recorded live to two-inch tape, the group played together in one big room, with no headphones. In Davidson’s words, “the music here is an expression of a group. I asked for the job because I felt strongly that we shouldn’t bring in someone from outside the band. Otherwise, the only personal desire I had was that we be able to explore space, that we let the music open up and slow down in contrast to previous records – not in terms of tempo but rather overall movement, information between the beats.”
Meek believes that all of the great love songs have not been written yet. In between the lines of Haunted Mountain, we hear that love, in every form, is the creation of home, from within – forever leaving one to find another.