In the second half of January, the news broke that J. Tillman was leaving the Fleet Foxes to become Father John Misty. It was announced, at the same time, that two other Foxes—active members Casey Wescott and Christian Wargo—would also break off to pursue a side project with Ian and Peter Murray (of the Christmas Cards) called Poor Moon.
Fast-forward about two months and you’ve got the group’s debut EP. Named after Wargo’s favorite Canned Heat song, Poor Moon put the five-track Illusion out March 7. With an official (CD, vinyl) release set for March 27, the free download was scrapped two days later, just in time for enough people to miss the window and begin growing a real interest in the band.
Like their Fleet Foxes brethren, Poor Moon make craftsmen music. The songs on Illusion are detailed on the whole, but remain lightly so in other aspects. Sometimes the playing itself is a little flat, as on the lead single “People In Her Mind." Elsewhere, the song structure is harmless. Some like it when bands keep to a specific sound or style, while others look for change more readily. For any artist, evolution is natural, but you have to want to develop. Talking about Poor Moon, our Andrew Winistorfer recently wrote, “Did you expect a couple dudes from Fleet Foxes to do a noise rock EP?”
Who expected anything other than what we have here? At five tracks and 16 minutes, Illusion is no illusion. If you’ve listened to Fleet Foxes or the Murray brothers’ band before, you probably could have fleshed out Poor Moon’s sound with relative ease. The jump from Foxes to Moon didn’t need something as drastic as noise rock, but a slight bend in the road to show what else these musicians are capable of could have helped set them apart. Harmonies, reverb and muted drums, check. Vocals atop the mix, check.
The thing is that, while Poor Moon put together an EP with no truly bad songs, it's likely that Illusion will end up lumped into some 'fleet foxes discography' file in a forum somewhere. "Widow," the EP's closing track, is beautiful, but it still doesn't compare to a number of sparse songs by the Foxes. Not even because their version of "False Knight on the Road" is necessarily more potent (though it is), but because Poor Moon seemingly lacks the collective ambition of its father band.
Illusion's two standouts, "Anyplace" and "Once Before" do, on the other hand, provide a counter to that thought. They showcase Wargo as a strong songwriter; in the latter he sings that "there ain't too much that a promise can do/ From someone who never sleeps at night," which is easily the EP's most reliable sentiment. For everyone's sake, hopefully Poor Moon will continue developing its singularity as a band when the quartet releases its first full-length this August.