Moon Days / Shuttle / July 2018
RIYL: Beatles, The Grateful Dead, The Flaming Lips
Moon Days’ first LP, Shuttle, skips softly along through 11 songs reminiscent of Yellow Submarine/Sgt. Pepper’s era Beatles, The Grateful Dead, The Flaming Lips, and even Randy Newman.
For this record, the band brought in eight additional members to record instruments well beyond the typical four-piece set up, to feature everything from oboe to cello. The songs, however, never get too busy with all of these layered instruments. John, Jake, and Eric’s voices stay directly on top of the melody, pure and never straying off pitch, though admittedly lacking some character.
The apathetic vocal tone is consistent throughout the record, regardless of the lyrical content, but the melodic tones remain, always ultra-happy and uplifting. This tone becomes ironic, perhaps intentionally, on songs like “Do I Do I Do,” an apparent breakup song, and on the final song of the album, “Ollie.” In “Ollie,” which discusses social division, they share a brighter outlook on life by referencing children’s games in the chorus (“Ollie Ollie Oxen Free”).
The near-title track (“The Shuttle”) makes dramatic tonal shifts between a reverb-laden verse with a surf beat, an empty synth riff, and a baroque-influenced instrumental. “Day Song” begins with a pretty fingerpicked guitar and stays relatively consistent throughout, as does “Nothing to Lose,” a soft ballad – both a nice break from the more disjointed tone of the rest of the album. In “Thought 1,” the band verges on something a bit heavier in a minor key, but keeps away from distortion in favor of clean tones and a more uplifting bridge and chorus.
While “Shuttle” could stand to be more cohesive, Moon Days defines their sound by the end of this well-produced album. Most of the lyrics are vague, and songs a bit scattered, but the band creates a few nice soundscapes with layered harmonies and instrumentals, which might win over a few of their influences’ fans. Their music feels warm and welcoming, made by jolly, well-adjusted folks, and I imagine their live performance is the same (especially if they bring out all their friends on the record).