Ryan Kirkpatrick, frontman and songwriter for Fort Collins’ The 14ers, has a love of the outdoors, to say the least. He spends most of his time traveling and hiking or playing with the band, which consists of drummer Barry Bates, bassist Stu Cruden, cajon / keyboardist Jacob Anderson, and guitarist Paul Martin. They formed in 2012 but haven’t released proper albums until 2019, dropping both their debut Get Some, and Mountaintop Folk-Pop back in July. All those years of finding inspiration from the wilderness and focusing on playing music have finally paid off.
Mountaintop Folk-Pop is breezy and hook-y, like a ‘60s pop band trying their hand at punchy folk. It’s layered with organs, piano licks and even synths with abundant Colorado-rocking guitar. Kirkpatrcik’s lyrics and crystal-clear tenor are reminiscent of the band Fun, and fun seems to be the point. Most albums labeled as “folk” of late are dark or melancholic affairs, but this one ain’t. Indeed, the “pop” part of the album’s title seems to be the true focus, evoking They Might Be Giants without the tongue-in-cheek.
Kirkpatrick’s background as a vagabond shows itself on “Westbound,” “Vacation,” “Mountain Town,” and “Lean Forward Paddle Hard,” and the band outwardly owns up to their wanderlust. Kirkpatrick says he “draws inspiration from the places and the people surrounding him as he travels the globe leading skiing, photography, and hiking trips, everywhere from Colorado to Mount Kilimanjaro.” All these life experiences subsequently filter down into Mountaintop Folk-Pop, giving it a joyous, travelling feel that sounds like it was actually lived by someone real.
“Westbound,” for instance, tells the tale of a windows-down road trip you’d take with your friends in your 20s, while “Mountain Town” regales you with a picture of settled life in the snowbound Rockies.
Mountaintop Folk-Pop is a genre-defining album for folk-pop, but Kirkpatrick and crew walk the walk (or, hike the hike) too. In true catch-and-release fashion, so to speak, The 14ers have presented it in a pay-what-you-want format, calling the album “yours; like the outdoors.”