Monday 2 October 2023

Who's Telling The Truth Today?

Earlier this year, almost by chance, I came across the eponymous album by Complete Mountain Almanac, bought it and fell in love.

Complete Mountain Almanac is a collaboration between Rebekka Karijord and Jessica Dessner, joined by Jessica's younger siblings Aaron and Bryce Dessner. The grouping alone is intriguing: Rebekka is a Norwegian-born, Sweden-based musician and composer. Jessica Dessner is a US-born, Brooklyn-based artist, poet and dancer who was based in Italy at the time of this project. The brothers Dessner are better known as members of The National and, more recently, their work with Taylor Swift. 

To quote from the album promo, "Complete Mountain Almanac first took seed in Rebekka’s mind: to compose an album about climate change in 12 suites, representing the 12 months of the year and the inherent healing cycle of nature. As she entered the initial writing stage, she approached Jessica to create the visual component of the project. Soon after, Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her own creative practice began to fuel her own internal healing process. In addition to working on the project’s artwork, she wrote a book of poetry, entitled Complete Mountain Almanac. Once these words were in Rebekka’s hands, they soon found their home as the lyrical matter for the songs – as well as baptizing the women’s collaboration, and debut release, with its name. The experience of personal illness and healing, alongside the experience of addressing climate change and the potency of nature, found an existential common ground in the two women’s collaboration. And Complete Mountain Almanac stands as testimony to their raw uncovering – an ode to rejuvenation, joy, and hope."
It's all that, and then some. The songs, titled and sequenced chronologically from January to December are an aural and lyrical journey. 
In the opening song, Rebekka gives voice to Jessica's self-examination,
I’m leaving a terrestrial body
Gathered around a notorious void
The feeling in which I live
What necessitates
These drifting shapes of illness

March poignantly details the impending acceptance of loss,
Thank you beautiful breast
For all the life I found through you
Gave through you
And lived through you
I love you
I love you
You are loved
With the coming of autumn and a season of change, October describes a period of healing and hope for rejuvenation,

The clarity of pain
Of fear and love
Love is clear
When the heart and the body and the mind
Want to be clear together
That is love 
The end of the cycle reaches a heart-rending climax with December,
Birth, old age, sickness and death
The four seasons
Live all four of these
And you can say you have lived 
...And do I still care?
...Am I full of it? 
Saving the most moving verse to last,
The body betrays itself
The body, it heals itself
An aberrant alchemy
Without responsibility
In keeping with the album's shared theme of a planet ravaged by climate change and a body attacked by cancer, there is a recurring lyrical motif drawing comparisons "of the earth, of the body". Complete Mountain Almanac carries it's messages lightly but they take root with repeated listens and grow within you.

The music also has a deceptive lightness of touch that rewards with each listen. With a folky acoustic foundation, with occasional synths and horns and Bryce bringing in the Malmo Symphony Orchestra's string section to give extra aural heft, each song is self-contained yet so much more when taken as a whole story. 

Complete Mountain Almanac is a beautiful album which I discovered almost by accident and which I've revisited repeatedly throughout the year. You can listen to and buy the album here.

Today's post is dedicated to Alyson of the wonderful What's It All About? blog.


  1. I hopped over to Bandcamp with intentions of flicking through the album, but immediately became absorbed and listened to the whole thing from top to bottom. What an enchanting record it is. I can quite understand why you've returned to it so often and can see myself doing the same. Lovely stuff.

    1. I had a similar experience, TS. I can't recall how I picked up the link in the first place but I think I was only intending to drop by and adding it to my shopping list if I liked what I heard. I ended up buying the album then and there.

  2. I totally concur. Love it.


  3. Thanks, JM, I'm very pleased to see that!