402′s head honcho Nick Wan may be pumping out mini-reviews of bands’ albums that we’ve missed via his overhaul articles to make ends meet, but I’m not taking that road. Do I have a large stack of LPs and EPs to give light to on this site? Yes. But once this mass-end-of-the-year review frenzy is over with, I’ll be able to look back and quote D. Boon in saying, “I took them all, one at a time… one at a time.”
Beginning this slow but steady game of catch up is the self-titled debut LP of Poor Moon. Sub Pop Records released this record; a label that has always had a roster to be reckoned with, although recently, their clientele has been putting out some weak efforts… (I’m looking at YOU, Husky). Anyways, this album received a lot of hype due to the band’s shared members Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott with Sub Pop giants Fleet Foxes. Both are folk acts at heart, and if half of the four piece that is Poor Moon carries physical influence from Fleet Foxes, hopefully some of the magic from their recorded genius has transcended as well.
Listen to “Holiday”
Featuring Tom Skerritt! From Alien!
Fans seeking solace in Poor Moon from the studio lull in between Helplessness Blues and whatever lies ahead for Fleet Foxes will be happy to see that the group harmonies can still be heard here. “Pulling Me Down” and “Phantom Light” are two examples of the typical voice play that occurs throughout the album; its zenith taking place immediately at opening track “Clouds Below,” a modest track highlighted by only some plucked strings and the group’s vocals at peak attendance. Easily the best cut is “Same Way,” a constantly building, but never spilling smooth flotation device of sound. Consider it a gift.
Christian Wargo, the main vocalist for Poor Moon, is a frail choice for singing duties. In Fleet Foxes, he was perfectly fine contributing as a backing singer to the main attraction that is Robin Pecknold’s croon. When you take that piece away from the puzzle and replace it with Wargo at the helm, it becomes a much less interesting picture. Even avoiding comparison to Pecknold, it cannot be denied that Wargo leaves us listeners with a terribly boring experience, free of any stimulation. Without knowledge of his first and foremost position in Foxes, one could listen to “Heaven’s Door” and still latch on to the notion that Christian is a backup vocalist at heart who stumbled into another band to take the reigns. His voice is almost criminally uncharacteristic; it contains no warble, no rasp, no nasality, and if that wasn’t enough, the vocal patterns to these songs offer no outlet for him to fluctuate drastically between notes. The man knows pitch well, but isolated, he is the vocality of white bread.
Apart from the vocal problem staring you in the face, the songwriting is hit-or-miss. Specifically, two hits and eight misses. “Same Way” and “Waiting For” are the only tunes worth your time, as they depend on elements other than Wargo’s voice to act as a centerpiece. “Waiting For” features a somewhat distorted slide guitar that makes for a joyous listen, if only because it is the most unique sounding portion of Poor Moon‘s entirety. Hopping back on the comparison wagon, everything else on this record sounds like rejected, lazy fragments of Fleet Foxes songs made whole again. Seriously, “Phantom Light” recalls that one time at the local renaissance fair when you got stuck waiting in line for food and the lute band set up shop right next to you for the duration… the lesser of the two lute bands.
Poor Moon doesn’t harbor many reasons for a listen. In fact, harkening back to my original gripe about label mates Husky, this LP and Forever So have too much in common. Two folk bands with the proper production and little creativity to follow. Although, Husky falls more on the uncreative side than Poor Moon does. The bigger problem with Poor Moon is that the talent is implied, but they didn’t go out of their way to make this effort anything stellar, resulting in music that slows you down rather than relaxing you.