While Fleet Foxes laze in the shade created by the mighty oak of their successes, their more tangential members Christian Wargo (also of pristine poppers Crystal Skulls) and Casey Wescott have been demo-swapping and basement party-playing with brothers Ian and Peter Murray all the while, recently signing to the delicious Sub Pop, also home of the Foxes, and now dropping this, their first recorded material as Poor Moon, in the shape of the Illusion EP.
Surprisingly for a 5-tracker it’s thematically both interesting and convincing as a record, ostensibly, about understanding and misjudgement. Opener ‘Illusion’, a lachrymose, ghostly folk tune brought out with clear vocals and precise arpeggio holds the sweet resignation of the rollercoastering line “I wanna learn to rely on what I first decide when the moment come before it passes me by/So I don’t have to think twice”. We’re already talking illusion, confusion and smart human observation. When it’s backed up with more great text like the stoic “We’ve no reason to hide/Not much comes as a real surprise”, it’s clear we’re into more lyrically involving territories than those recently mustered by their parent group.
Further tying-in with these threads of thought is the semi-magical, ethereal backwoods folk of the superb ‘Anyplace’, a misty-eyed, barely present but somehow memorable journey through simple melody and rich harmony that addresses the Patron Saint of Translators directly: “Anyplace you wanna go/Someday, Saint Jerome”. It’s a winning, warming piece of golden pop that doesn’t shirk on the smarts.
While the ideas carry through both ‘People In Her Mind’ – in which our protagonist suffers delusions of her life being filled with friends when, actually, they’re no more than memories – and the Crystal Skulls/Shins jaunt of ‘Once Before’, which uses its chorus to neatly switch perception from cynicism to naivety in the space of a line: “I’ve been in love before/Once before”; musically these are far less interesting propositions, the kind of throwaway ’60s-driven sugar-pop that’s been done a hundred times and a hundred times better by other bands (specifically the aforementioned Shins). In fact, this pair of tracks get annoying very quickly – their niceness is really not a virtue.
‘Widow’ rounds things off, and it’s wonderful. Belting out of the blocks with some hearty harmonies and reverting to the voice and picked strings of the earlier, better tracks, this is a Simon and Garfunkel vamp extraordinaire. A tale of a wasted life and a wasteful relationship that ends in tragedy and the greatest deception of all closes with the affecting line “And she will always live alone in the oldest part of town”.
Confusion, error, deception, translation, illusion. What else would we expect from a band whose promo photo is of each of their faces made up of elements of the features of other people? It’s good – and rare – to hear a well-conceived short album and this, despite its less involving moments, is one you’ll return to and ponder for weeks to come.