Cole Kinsler is a bit of an outsider. On the opening track of his latest full-length release under his moniker Space Mountain, he mumbles “I’m the last guy on Earth and I’m throwing a party / For my birthday, no one cares.” Most tellingly, he doesn’t sound at all upset about that scenario, but this attitude makes sense in the context of the lo-fi, DIY project.
Kinsler began recording music out of his dorm room in 2013, but took great care to only do so when his roommate was out (“I didn’t want to annoy him,” he said in a recent interview). Upon graduation, the Connecticut native made the move to Boston, and though he quickly found a thriving indie scene to revel in, he has remained decidedly on the periphery of the community. He is self-releasing his eight-track sophomore collection, Gargantua, which, as it happens, he also wrote and recorded entirely on his own.
Despite this self-imposed solitary confinement of sorts, Kinsler’s music registers as blithe, nostalgic, and vulnerable. It’s also familiar and inviting, but perhaps that’s just my own personal reaction to the very ‘90s alt-rock aesthetic that Space Mountain so closely resembles. Kinsler layers fuzzed-out electric guitar chords over warm, acoustic riffs, always played with an off-kilter edge reminiscent of Pavement or Flake Music’s recordings. His apathetic cadence aids the delivery of lines like “I’m tired of sitting around” (“Gargantua”) or “Don’t want to go back, don’t want to change / I’m afraid of growing old” (“She Saw Me”). Meanwhile, “Slow Dog” is a short, rickety, but lovely instrumental that, especially when the ditty opens up to a screechy electric guitar, recalls Yo La Tengo circa Painful—though with an admittedly sunnier vibe. For anyone who knows me, these comparisons constitute the highest possible compliments.
That’s not to say Gargantua is perfect (or at all close to it), though the record does evidence a fair amount of growth for Kinsler’s sound. Coming from a debut that was so beyond lo-fi it was borderline unintelligible, the eight tracks found on this release sound dusted off and shined. The interplay between Kinsler’s instruments as he fleshes out his careful but remarkably catchy melodies is one of the project’s high points, and we thankfully hear these details with much more clarity now. But there’s an air of untapped promise with Space Mountain, and we are often left wondering how much farther these tunes could go were they to be taken out of the bedroom. Here’s to hoping we get to find out next time around.