Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to love the more retro, classic prog rock sound with its folk elements, pastoral tone, and overdrawn instrumentals. There is just too much in the way of more interesting music out there for me to care about bands that sound like Genesis or Yes anymore. However, some albums surprise me because they transcend their obvious influences to become something I like quite well. The new album from Tiger Moth Tales is one such album. “Depths of Winter” released on November 20th, and I believe it to be an exquisite, tonally perfect work of art.
Tiger Moth Tales is essentially a solo project from Peter Jones. He handles the vocals and pretty much all the instruments, as well. The album also features Luke Machin from Maschine and The Tangent, as well as Peter’s friend Emma on flute, plus a brass section to boot.
Musically speaking, Tiger Moth Tales tends towards the retro style of prog rock that I mentioned. I think it might fall between classic and “neo” prog somewhere, but, then again, genres don’t mean all that much. What I do hear is Genesis and Camel, and that’s not a bad thing. On this album, you’ll hear warm synth, lots of flute and horns, gentle soundscapes, long instrumentals, and also a strong folk element. This is all wrapped in a tidy package that is delivered exceptionally and feels homey.
One of the strengths of “Depths of Winter” has to do with the tone set by the title. Especially on songs like “Exposure”, you actually feel the coldness of the air and the whiteness of the landscape around you, but the music is warm and inviting at the same time, so the whole album feels like a comfy evening by the fire with a raging blizzard outside your window. Yes, there is even a Christmas song on the album. The composition here is top notch with lots of atmospheric touches that are frankly brilliant.
Another strength is the story-telling nature of many of the songs. While some songs feel more abstractly emotional, many of them are straightforward stories from English history or legend. The press release for the album details the various legendary figures and eras that are presented here: Other songs have more to do with certain states of mind, like feelings of loss during the holiday season. Overall, the lyrical content is quite compelling, if a little heavy-handed at points.
Yet another strength here lies in the musical performances. Peter’s voice is splendid and warm, and seems especially crafted for this style of music. You can tell that he prides himself in a steady, rich performance. On top of that, the keys and guitars are also standouts. Peter’s keys have a fluidity and suaveness to them that I find very striking. This is where the “neo-prog” part really shines. Peter and Luke’s guitars are very strong, too, with purposeful licks and a gorgeously recorded organic tone. Lastly, Emma’s flute is a strong part of the album overall, as are the brass offerings, and they both add to the folksy glory here.
The first three songs on the album are as perfect of a prog triplet as you will find. “Winter is Coming” is a fantastic opener with lots of personality, flutes, and horns. It feels very much like a prelude, but a beautiful and weighty one. “Winter Maker” comes in with suave synth and focuses more on guitar work and groove. “Exposure” is a perfect song with plenty of emotion, wintery metaphors, and sheer beauty in composition. It is quite atmospheric, and is thus my favorite on the album.
I do, however, find that the album gets a little redundant as the album progresses. It’s difficult to distinguish later songs and the album does seem to drag longer than needed at over 70 minutes in length. That said, the last half still contains some beautiful songs. “Take the Memory” is a gorgeous song engorged in melody and gentle emotions that I think we all share. “The Tears of Frigga” is a folksy, spacey song with a luscious harmony near the end. Finally, “Hygge” is another lovely song with some beautiful woodwinds and something of a cinematic feel. The album ends with a short outro called “Winter’s End” that does perfectly tie the bow on the album.
Tiger Moth Tales has another winner on its hands with “Depths of Winter”. I really like the theme and the atmosphere presented in this album, and the music sounds composed perfectly to convey the feelings and imagery of the winter season. If you are a fan of classic prog primarily, or even bands like Big Big Train, this album will be a home run for you.