Music, Print, Reviews September 5, 2019

Album Review: The 14ers – Mountaintop Folk-Pop

by Jay Wallace

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.

Hailing from Fort Collins, The 14ers celebrate Mountiantop Folk-Pop at Washington’s on September 13.
Photo by Drew Carlson

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 is as at home on stage as he is in the wilderness. Photo by Drew Carlson.

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.

Ryan Kirkpatrick, 14ers songwriter and frontman, leads photography, skiing and hiking expeditions all over the world, inspiring Mountiantop Folk-Pop’s vibe.
Photo by Drew Carlson

“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.”

The 14ers celebrate the release of Mountaintop Folk-Pop on Friday, September 13 at Washington’s in Fort Collins.

Kirkpatrick recording Mountaintop Folk-Pop. Photo by Drew Carlson