It seems like everyone has gone solo, lately some with startling success, some with startling boredom. Mary Timony, former avatar of Helium, has created a lovely album of thrilling quiet rock songs and surprisingly intricate, but earthy, progressive pieces. Mountains starts with “Dungeon Dance,” a sad, but pleasant musical song that captures some of the musical qualities of a beginner piano collection, yet has overtones of the medieval mysticism. On the topic of dragons, Timony notes “it’s not like I belong to some weird society of Dungeons and Dragons people. Then again, it is fun to be influenced by weird people and to draw from their weirdness.” Later on in the album, “13 Bees” follows a similar simplicity. Timony manages to use simple rhythms and themes about bees flying of leaves, dying, being born and afraid in a way that prophetic, symbolic ˆ in the long tradition of fable telling. Most of her pieces explore a realm slightly new to Timony. Unlike the typical indie-rocker, Timony spent time at Boston University studying classical music. She felt frustrated, however, with classical music: its rigor sand strained intricacies. “I was obsessed with the idea that easy music was better, that complicated music had no soul. Helium’s early music came from wanting to keep things basic. I’d hit the guitar a lot, because I was sick of learning how to play it. But the music is getting more complicated now and I’m finding my training to be a big help.”
Many of her songs explore history and thus capture the complexities of containing it all (think of the burden of the Mona Lisa?). Songs such as “1542” and “RiderA Stormy Sea” are as varied as all of time, borrowing from religious music and art rock. “Rider on a Stormy Sea” could easily be a single, as its tempo often changes along with its catchy riffs and dazzling vocals. Songs like “The Bell” and “The Golden Fruit, “songs which combine many instruments and harder elements are experiments with the sound similar to The Cranes. The album is a direct relative of the work of Tori Amos. But I say this with apprehension, as I know some of Amos‚ so-called “flaws” are not issues with Mountains. The superficial comparisons are apparent: the piano, the magical themes, harpsichord, female lead. And, according to The Village Voice’s Terri Sutton, like Amos, “why Mary Timony wouldn’t fit in at Lilith Fair: Because she says it straight up “the Queen of Fire wants to fuck unicorns.” Mary Timony covers a lot of ground that Amos treads upon, but perhaps in ways that are more familiar to most of us.
˜ Laurie Anne Agnese
from the Rutgers University Student newspaper issue published 4/25/00