Half Moon Run

Sun Leads Me On

Written by: TL on 05/11/2015 17:01:19

The Canadian indie/folk group Half Moon Run made itself known in Denmark when the band played Copenhagen a grand total of three times in 2013, first in support of Mumford And Sons, then a few days later as headliners in Beta and finally later the same year, having grown to fit the larger Lille Vega and bring along Folly And The Hunter as support. They have some presence here then, which they presumably aim to build on when they return in February, touring in support of their newest album "Sun Leads Me On", which fans have some time to get familiar with before the band's arrival.

The way the album starts, though, feels cheeky - perhaps even borderline bratty - for while the clarinet and brass of "Warmest Regards" showcase early on how good the recording is, the song is slow as a crawl and its laid back melody is almost kitsch, with the organ notes and choirs making it a bit of a psychedelic snoozer. And considering that the two songs that follow, "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On" and "Consider Yourself", both bring about more of the contagious, fleet-footed momentum one remembers from Half Moon Run's first album, 2012's "Dark Eyes", it almost feels like the group intentionally wants to see off any impatient newcomers right from the start. Like "Warmest Regards" is a gatekeeper that's instructed to only let the right types of music enthusiasts into the rest of the record.

As mentioned, though, the track does clue you in on how well recorded and mixed this record is, with many instruments perfectly balanced in terms of volume and position. "I Cant Figure Out What's Going On" for instance, sounds exquisite right from the start, with a subtle guitar riff gradually bidding more and more added instrumentation welcome, building an increasingly contagious energy throughout the song's progression. It does not quite get explosive, however, not in the modern sense at least, because Half Moon Run seemingly prefer to look back to the pop and country of past decades instead. "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On" hence gets a bit of a Fleetwood Mac vibe especially via the choral elements, while the following "Consider Yourself" pitches an 80s style electronic keyboard against an electric guitar and an ordinary piano, until all three swirl around each other on top of a driving beat that carries the listener to climaxes where vocalist Devon Portielje belts out his vocals in a retro, soul-ish purging.

With "Hands In The Garden", however, it seems like Half Moon Run were not joking with "Warmest Regards", rather they are committed to giving some time to a laid-back, sort of retro pop expression. And again, the backing vocals going "uh-uhuh-uhuh" in the chorus, in particular, makes the song feel like something you'd hear playing from a radio in a 50's themed TV show (American Dreams comes to mind). On the bright side, the tender singing in a quieter song like this, gives Half Moon Run a bit of a frail quality akin to that of London's Dry The River, but the music feels a bit like a pastiche, which makes it a bit difficult to relate to, unless you're the sort to routinely complain that today's music does not take more cues from The Mamas And The Papas. It's not simply that Half Moon Run can't make things work in more slowly paced songs, however, as the yearning "Narrow Margins" gets closer to some of that delicacy that Dry The River also thrives on. But they are clearly at their most impressive at in that gear where you feel like they are tripping to break into a run. That kind of barely restrained energy simply lends itself well to the quivering of the vocals, as does the occasional experimentation with electronic elements.

Overall, the main drawbacks of "Sun Leads Me On" then, is that it features a couple of moments that get a bit too slow and kitsch sounding for their own good, and that at thirteen songs it feels a bit long. Even at their best, like on "Turn Your Love", "Consider Yourself" and "Sun Leads Me On" - as well as on older favourites like "Call Me In The Afternoon" and "She Wants To Know" - Half Moon Run is primarily the kind of band that wins you over as the songs bloom, more so than a group that pries your ears open right away. And when the latter half of an album strings together less obviously striking tracks, like on here, the experience feels more like one you don't mind chilling to as a casual background listen, than an album you will intentionally seek out in the future. It is a bit of a shame really, because judging from how pleasant the it sounds, it seems clear that Half Moon Run has a deft touch in terms of putting richly detailed music together. They just don't quite put it together in the kind of songs that make you want to get your friends to listen to them as soon as possible.


Download: Turn Your Love, Consider Yourself, Sun Leads Me On
For The Fans Of: Dry The River, River City Extension, Folly And The Hunter, To Kill A King
Listen: facebook.com/halfmoonrun

Release date 23.10.2015
Indica Records / Glassnote Entertainment Group

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