by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
What sets the Moondoggies, arguably one of the more successful acts to come out of the Pacific Northwest in the last decade, apart in a genre that has become saturated in recent years? Aside from their questionable name choice, an ability to embrace emotionality. That is increasingly rare in today’s musical landscape.
Overly complicated attempts to stand outside the crowd have almost become the status quo as amateurs armed with music programs like Ableton constantly try to out-weird each other. In the process of creating something different just to be different, a true sense of heart and soul are, more often than not, left behind.
Although never sounding cliché, the Moondoggies clearly don’t put much stock in trying to sound like something you’ve never heard before. They’re a band that simply creates music that is, above all else, expressive. Thus, the Moondoggies’ truly beautiful approach to music results in a sound that is stirring rather than innovative. Where other folk bands like Mumford and Sons tend to produce fairly cut-and-paste melodies that feel like replications of more heartfelt folk songs, the Moondoggies instead produce something that feels genuine.
Their newest endeavor, “Adios I’m a Ghost,” has the stated intention of discovering “the idea of living and dying and the many times we’ve lived and died before.” Despite the rather ostentatious and esoteric nature of such a claim, the album’s sweeping score somehow lives up to it.
Like their previous albums, “Don’t Be a Stranger” and “Tidelands,” “Adios I’m a Ghost” is an album that has to be taken as a whole to be fully appreciated. It begins with the understated “I’m a Ghost,” which, at only 0:23 seconds, sets a haunting tone for the rest of the album with appropriately ethereal humming over simple, understated guitar strums. Then, in a quick about face, the band’s single “Red Eye” propels the album forward with a poppy, fast-paced tune that sounds like Ambulance LTD mixed with Wilco.
“Annie Turn Out the Lights” then brings the energy back down again with a consistent, atmospheric melody that demonstrates how the Moondoggies can create a poignant, lingering sound that transitions neatly into the similarly-veined “Midnight Owl,” which plays out as a touching love song that keeps the tone appropriately melancholic.
Then, the album delivers its most devastating track in “Pride,” which brings back the same eerie background vocals of “I’m a Ghost,” and tells the story of a broken heart brought on by the suicide of a former lover. Despite being just two and a half minutes long, the song stands out as one of the band’s best achievements.
“A Lot to Give” brings the album’s mood back up by forgoing the acoustic guitars and instead offering a tapestry of electric guitars that ramps up the albums energy and seamlessly changes direction towards its climax with a far more experimental, almost cacophonic score. Despite seeming somewhat out of place between the heart wrenching “Pride” and the airy, 1960s folk-inspired “Stop Signs,” “A Lot to Give” shows the range that the Moondoggies are able to achieve.
After “Stop Signs,” “Start Me Over” alternates between a more energetic tone and a softer, lingering sound more in keeping with the rest of the album before delivering “One More Chance” arrives, which stands out as another poppy song on-par with “Red Eye” as a potential single that is perhaps the most uplifting on the entire album.
The final two songs, “Back to the Beginning” and “Don’t Ask Why,” showcase the band’s ability to change direction suddenly without sounding abrupt or out of place. The latter is the album’s most varied track. It continually switches gears throughout its run, but as a result, never manages to evoke the same sort of emotion that drives the early part of the album like “Pride,” and doesn’t quite stick in the mind. While certainly good, it doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the album. Finally, “Adios I’m a Ghost” concludes with its title track, another 30 second track that provides a perfect bookend to the opener.
Overall, “Adios I’m a Ghost” stands out as one of the best folk albums in recent times, and not just for the region. Their current tour may be concentrated mainly on the PNW, but the Moondoggies talent is strong enough that they almost certainly will become increasingly noteworthy in the next few years.