Following up on a great debut album is certainly a difficult thing to do. Some bands are their own “hard act to follow”. Lo Moon gave us their self-titled debut back in 2018, and it was a rich, melodic, and addictive outing. Now they are back with A Modern Life, releasing on February 25th, and there is definitely something different this time.
Lo Moon come to us from California. The band consists of Matt Lowell on vocals and guitars, Sam Stewart on guitars, and Crisanta Baker on bass, keys, and samples. Sterlin Laws appears to be a part of the band now, too, handling drums. He was not a part of the band on the debut.
I’ll get right to the point. Lo Moon offers what I consider to be a progressive-leaning pop sound. Call it sophisticated pop or art pop, if you like. There is something here that is more ambitious, more lucrative, and more fully realized than many other pop sounds out there. I love their style. However, while on their debut one could detect elements of hip hip, trip hop, and so on, I feel like this album is pure art pop/rock. The sound is stripped down somewhat.
But I think there is a reason for this. The debut felt exciting and maybe even happy, but A Modern Life is the exact opposite. This album is sad and melancholic. It feels written by someone who has finally hit their thirties and has realized that the world is structured to destroy your dreams, that everything you ever hoped for is never going to happen. And that strikes a chord with me, having experienced the same feelings. Somewhere along the way, though, you realize that maybe your dreams weren’t really your actual dreams, and maybe happiness is right at your fingertips and in the people that have stuck with you all this time already. Maybe that takes it further than the band does, but this is how A Modern Life makes me feel.
This is a record of memory and nostalgia, of lost dreams and disappointed expectations. Hell, there’s literally a song called “Expectations” about growing up and failing to achieve the goals that you set for yourself. Self-hate flickers on the edges here, and the proverbial ball of melancholy continues to roll downhill into apathy, tears, and depression. But that isn’t the end.
The irony in all of this is that the album is quite beautiful in its pruned state. Just like a tree needs clipped once in a while, sometimes a band needs to give their sound a trim in order for the strongest parts to grow and flourish. You won’t hear an overage of production tricks or layers of plastic tones here. No, this album is an authentic experience, and the band knows it well. They also know that they can’t leave us in the depths of darkness, and I feel like the album ends on a hopeful not, one of self-orientation and courage.
A Modern Life is very real about what life becomes as you get older. I appreciate each and every song in the playlist. It is a rather short album, around 30 minutes long, but it does have a satisfying arc to it. The singles are “Dream Never Dies”, “Raincoats”, and “Stop”, and all three are fabulous. “Dream Never Dies” has an incredible hook in it that is on my mind constantly. “Raincoats” is a little more complex, burning slowly into a mighty fire near the end, complete with a superb vocal performance. I really like that one. “Stop” is actually the closer, and communicates with hope and golden whimsy, in my eyes. I feel like it offers a sumptuous ending.
Some other favorite tracks are “Carried Away”, a song with real energy and harmony in its blood. This song actually lifts my spirits quite a bit. The aforementioned “Expectations” does perhaps the opposite, feeling darker and gloomier. It still has a bright melody at its core, though, which is absolutely beautiful.
Both the title track and “Eyes on the Prize” are great tracks, too. The title track is perhaps a little more mainstream pop than I tend to like, but it is really growing on me. “Eyes on the Prize” is different, though, feeling classy and hopeful. I like the steady beat and gracious chorus most of all.
Lo Moon has a great album on their hands here, though it is quite different from their debut. It is more honest, I find, and it speaks to my soul more. For that, I salute the band and I hope that this celebration of nuance and reservation can be appreciated like it should be.
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