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Canada’s Half Moon Run enchanted us in 2012 with their debut album, Dark Eyes. Despite the band being formed via a craigslist ad, they demonstrated a sonic synchrony rare even in veteran groups.
The spacious emotionality of this first album, comprised equally of slow-burn indie-rock and sucker-punch sonics, made most of us chime the phrase, ‘they have the potential to be massive’. So, we witnessed beautiful and atmospheric performances at Woodford and Peats Ridge Festivals, and their climb to massivity seemed confirmed.
After two years of touring, and it’s accompanying vortice of stress, fatigue and loneliness, the boys have recorded their sophomore album, Sun Leads Me On. They have done so with Nyles Spencer and producer Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Kasabian, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Temper Trap). The album is difficult to pinpoint musically – it moves, rather clumsily sometimes, from the subtle count-to-counterpoint craftwork of Radiohead to the cooing-in-the-maple-forest sensibility of psych-folk bands like Fleet Foxes and then pinches a firework or two from the pop-rock pile.
Do not get me wrong, the album has some beautiful moments where Devon (or the other bandmates) lilts across lush-but-hushed soundscapes. But, all the musical voguing at this and that angle means that the album lacks a strong identity and sometimes slips into dullness.
The album’s first song, Warm Regards, is a gentle starting point, with Devon’s light and lithe vocals harmonising without effort to the guitar. My favourite song on the album is Turn Your Love. It has these thick but ghostly harmonies that weave like mist through the song’s complex percussive structure. This is all accompanied by some soft Springsteenian riffage. The song is an excellent example of musical equipoise, with all of its parts whirring in marvellous unity.
I really respect what Half Moon Run is attempting to do with their sound. Most indie rock, in an effort to innovate, will sow digital synths and electronic wails into its compendium. Whilst I appreciate the melding of digital with analog, computer with instrument, it is exciting to see a band appropriating the twangy emissions of alt-country, the sparse soundscapes of space rock and many other sounds. Sadly, this jack-of-all-trades approach has produced something that is absent of identic clarity.
Let me assure you, this is not an album-breaking issue. Sun Leads Me On is still a luscious bundle of beautiful.
Listen: Half Moon Run – Trust