Seattle quartet Poor Moon are part of the broad Fleet Foxes family tree: Christian Wargo and Casey Westcott fill out on bass and keyboards for that group, and both have spent time in Pedro The Lion as well as Wargo’s previous band Crystal Skulls. Brothers Ian and Peter Murray of the comparatively obscure Christmas Cards complete Poor Moon. Despite the musicians’ diverse backgrounds, this eponymous debut is unmistakably a post-Fleet Foxes album, and shouldn’t fail to appeal to anyone taking a chance on it on the back of that connection.
It’s an unassuming little record, done and dusted in under half an hour. Wargo’s songs are embellished with only as much instrumentation as it needs to carry the tune to the end, the music frequently dropping out altogether for Poor Moon’s holy harmonies. Guitars are struck lightly or strummed gently, drums and percussion and kept to a minimum, bass appears rarely. Various vibes, dulcimers and toy pianos colour the picture without clutter.
Opening track Clouds Below, with its whimsical jay bird whistling, sounds a worrying note of infantilism, leading to the suspicion that Poor Moon are setting themselves the challenge to make the year’s most inoffensive album. Pretty but lightweight songs Holiday and Birds add to the child-friendly feel: it’s G-rated music for bright kids.
There are mature (not adult) themes here though, in common with intelligent children’s literature and film. Phantom Light is a sketch of a dead man’s haunted home, while Pulling me Down hints at more troubled undercurrents of depression and abuse. The dappled organ psych of Heaven’s Door, meanwhile, presents the familiar dream of St Peter’s judgement, Poor Moon’s protagonist found wanting.
Some of this may sound like faint praise, but Poor Moon does deserve a hearing and an audience. It makes no great claims to its own importance, but is a skilful collection all the same.