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Critical Voices: Poor Moon, Poor Moon
With the success of 2011’s Helplessness Blues, any Fleet Foxes side project could easily have resulted in a successful mimicry of the original band. Members Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott, however, refused to succumb to this temptation while writing as Poor Moon. With the spin-off group’s debut self-titled album, Wargo, Wescott, and brothers Ian and Peter Murray have created a remarkable, self-standing LP.
Album opener “Clouds Below” creates a serene pastoral scene complete with a cricket and songbird-like whistling duet that leads into a jaybird song. Continuous picked guitar chords and Wargo’s high-pitched melodic voice induce a soporific effect that provides a transition to “Phantom Light.” The thematically darker second track increases the tempo of Poor Moon with a bouncing harpsichord solo and a steady drum beat that kick off the light jangle of the remainder of the album.
To summon this lighter instrumental tone, Poor Moon draws inspiration from the 1960s and the British Invasion. “Holiday,” for instance, is a perfectly formulated, bright, California beach tune reminiscent of the Beach Boys, while “Waiting For” brings back memories of the Beatles and the Theremin-infused psychedelic pop era.
In spite of the quirky instrumentation, Poor Moon’s happy veneer does not mask the occasional onset of darkness pouring through the vocal harmonies. “Heaven’s Door” is an electric guitar-heavy rhythmic track that has Wargo singing, “Nowhere to run / I had to pay for the sins that I loved too much.” Similarly, “Pulling Me Down,” with its wealth of minor chords and pounding drums, deals with the traumatic conclusion of a relationship. Fortunately, the general playfulness of the album does not allow the melancholy themes to overwhelm the listener.
Of course, Wargo’s vocals subject Poor Moon to unavoidable comparisons with the work of Fleet Foxes. “Same Way” opens with Fleet Foxes’s style before launching into Vampire Weekend-esque xylophone scales and up-tempo Afro-indie drum rhythms, only to have the Fleet Foxes-style influences resurface towards the track’s conclusion. Final tracks “Come Home” and “Birds” maintain this same mélange of approaches, weakening the album’s conclusion.
Still, a wide instrumental palette allows nearly every track to become its own world that resonates with new listeners and loyal fans of Fleet Foxes alike. The spin-off group’s LP will hit the shelves with only one real weakness: barely tipping the scale at 30 minutes, Poor Moon ends all too soon.
Voice’s Choices: “Holiday,” “Pulling me down”