Retrospective: Mountain Lions

One thing became clear to me in the aughties: the best music was buried in obscurity. And there was plenty of it, if you knew where to look. In one case I didn’t have to look far. One of my co-workers at the Nashua Public Library, Carson Lund, had his own indie band. He was the lead vocalist and piano/keyboard player for Old Abram Brown, a band that authored four albums between 2009-15. Check out that link; you can listen to the entire albums for free, and also buy any of them to support the band.

Of the four albums, the sophomore Restless Ghosts (2010) is the strongest. There are three mighty tracks in particular — “Little Feet”, “Tides”, and “Mountain Lions” — and I’m choosing “Mountain Lions” for today’s retrospection. This song was actually first released on Alive in Winter (2009), but rerecorded for the sophomore album with more oomph and assertive keyboards.

I remember when Carson told me that the song was inspired by a tragedy suffered by one of the band members: a Colorado mountain lion ate his pet. If something that like that had happened to my basset hound when I was a teen, it would have scarred me for life. And if I’d been right there when it happened… Jesus.

The refrain “Why does it have to cost so much to die?” betrays the obvious youthful pain, but it also resonates at this moment, now, during a pandemic. Those bump-covered spheres that fill up the lungs act according to a nature as savage as the wildest cougar. I remember this song also hit me personally when Restless Ghosts was released in October 2010, a month after my father died. (I’d not yet heard Alive in Winter, on which the song first appeared.) Yes, this is a song about a pet, for Christ’s sake, but listen to it. The melodies swell with existential suggestion; the horns come in, working wonders; and Carson’s vocals create a landscape of something more encompassing than literal imagery.

Much of the song resists a strict commentary anyway. Carson admitted the lyrics were a bit incoherent, perhaps, if I stabbed a guess, because that’s what sudden death does to us — leaving us to fumble for the meaning of a shredded life. This is my favorite bit, though I can’t make full sense of it either:

Kickin’ the leaves
Cuz the graveyard don’t talk
We swallow our prey
I know it’s not that hard
Descended to the bedrock

What, so every part of nature, including us, devours what it needs, and every part is bound for the soil anyway, where there’s nothing but a dark existential silence? I’m reading too much into it, no doubt.

Like the other tracks on Restless Ghosts, “Mountain Lions”, blends a bit of everything — indie, folk, alternative, even blues —  to produce a sound that’s both understated and grand. Old Abram Brown never achieved fame, but I tell you, they are better than overplayed bands like Coldplay and REM.

 

Listen here and sing.

🎶

Mountains lions, they ate my dog and why?
Why’s it have to cost so much to die?
Civil man with civil hands was awed
As the din of the sora went

Crooked and a crowded room
Miniatures by a quilted moon
They don’t see the snow
That’s covering the cul-de-sac road

Oh, they’d go far
And gather in the dark
And slide on the wood
To find a place to walk
And why not stay?
I know it won’t be long
Descended to the bedrock

Mountain lions, they ate my dog and why?
Why’s it have to cost so much to die?
Civil man with civil hands was awed
As the din of the sora went

Oh, they’d go far
And find a place to stop
Kickin’ the leaves
Cuz the graveyard don’t talk
We swallow our prey
I know it’s not that hard
Descended to the bedrock

Mountain lions, they ate my dog and why?
Why’s it have to cost so much to die?

🎶

From the album Restless Ghosts, 2010.

One thought on “Retrospective: Mountain Lions

  1. Pingback: My love in Retrospective: I Found a Body songs - Love Songs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s