The Moondoggies – Tidelands

Rating: ★★★ · ·

We can easily classify Moondoggies under the realm of folk harmony rock, as that’s clearly where their new album, Tidelands, has come to rest.  But, while you’re likely to use the Northwest as a reference point, due to the band’s location, and current trends, there seems to be a bit more nostalgic Americana on this record, which definitely makes it worth your listening ears.

Unfortunately, “It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity” opens up , which possibly gives the wrong impression to listeners right off the bat.  Now, this isn’t to say that this is a bad song, in fact, quite the opposite (I dug it), but it does tend to hint at modern folk rock trends, such as Grand Archives, just with a bit more of a twang and ambition.  Still, it’s not the most revealing song on the record, and it immediately sells the band’s sound short.  Following in its footsteps, “Tidelands,” doesn’t do too much to clarify things.  It comes from the same ilk, roots-rock featuring nice harmonic vocals.  Both songs are great, but you’ll find that Moondoggies have a great deal more to offer you as you move along–still, these tracks are good, but if its not what you’re looking for, keep moving along through the album.

“Uncertain” is the perfect track to display what the group are apt to do, from here on out we hope.  It’s a subtle meandering track, with Kevin Murphy’s vocals tugging on the coattails of a whiskey drunk Neil Young.  The percussion seems sleepy, but you find much more emotion in this track, much more personal reflection. This sort of track asks you to go back and look for phrases to fit to your memory–that’s the sort of song you’re looking for nowadays.  Similarly, the closing track “A Lot of People on My Mind” pulls you deep beneath the surface of the recording, as there are elements where you can here man waiver, questioning his existence, and those other timeless motifs of music.  Soft guitar strumming barely breaks the sound barrier here, forcing you to submit to the power of Murphy’s voice.  Surely we’d all be happy to hear more tracks like this.

Still, the band definitely have work to do if they’re to move beyond mere imitators and nostalgic songwriters.  “Down the Well” comes off busy, and doesn’t have the clarity that even the most quiet tracks of Tidelands offer.  Songs like these aren’t able to escape the haunting of ghostly influences, wearing the past on the sleeves of the musicians.  It is these moments that show us that Moondoggies have a bright future, once the kinks are finally ironed out.  Previously mentioned songs such as “Tidelands” or “Uncertain” stand on their own merit, but in the mix of the album, it makes for somewhat of an unbalanced effort.  Personally, the quiet moments are when the band seems the most successful, as this appears to be where they establish their own voice as musicians.  All in all, the effort here is good, but the execution itself needs a touch of work.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/shame.mp3]

Download: The Moondoggies – It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity [MP3]

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