The Kingsbury Manx – The Fast Rise and Fall of the South

The Kingsbury Manx
The Fast Rise and Fall of the South

Listening to North Carolina quartet Kingsbury Manx’s fourth release, The Fast Rise and Fall of the South, is the aural equivalent of taking a valium. The group’s dreamy, quasi-shoegazer pop has such an even keel that you are sure to be pretty blissed-out by the end of even one listen to the entire album. The music seems a bit spare at moments, but overall the disc is full of lush arrangements and enough beautiful two-part harmonies to give the word mellow new meaning.

The even keel of the songs is likely due to all of the songs being written by guitarist Bill Taylor, as opposed to shared songwriting duties on previous releases. He definitely had a particular mood in mind when writing these tracks, and although there are minor style changes throughout, this is a pop-rock album through and through. Taylor’s lyrics are wistful, and when combined with such pastoral melodies, the result is delicate but well-built.

The Fast Rise and Fall of the South begins with the soft, piano-driven psych-pop of “Harness and Wheel” that is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. This is the type of thoroughly handsome song that perfectly accompanies an independent film soundtrack. “What a Shame” expands on this subtle foundation before segueing perfectly into the Hammond organ opening of “Zero G.” Other tracks like “Snow Angel Dance” and “Oh No” have a shimmering alt-country feel that tips its hat to producer Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco).

Even the most upbeat tracks on The Fast Rise and Fall of the South – like the rolling “Ruins” or “10008” – are quite reserved in their approach. While it’s clear these guys have a solid understanding of catchy hooks, the arrangements keep this pop-rock album neatly in check. The lazy banjo and Mellotron flute on “Animations” continue Kingsbury Manx’s amble through Americana before leading us into the album’s final track, “Ol’ Mountainsides.” This closing number is the most dissonant of the bunch with an electric guitar outro that builds so slowly that it’s hardly jarring.

The Fast Rise and Fall of the South is fulfilling from start to finish and would make the perfect complement to a variety of activities depending on mood. While so many “soft” albums end up on the melancholy spectrum, Kingsbury Manx crafts songs that are too verdant to be anything but gratifying. The only thing lacking for this album is much wider recognition – something this band definitely deserves.