Halie and the Moon’s recently released their second EP, A Million Suns Vol. 1. I loved their debut Blue Transmissions Vol. 1 and so, waited with bated breath for this new addition. Of course, this begs the question: “When are volumes 2 dropping?” Equally perplexing to their naming practice is attempting to pigeonhole their music. Is it folksy pop with jazz overtones or, as their site describes, “acoustic dream pop ethereal atmospheric folk.” By any name, it’s lovely. It’s also not that far afield for Halie Loren; much of the style is reminiscent of Full Circle, Ms. Loren’s debut album recently celebrating its 10th anniversary. The melodic underlying structure and vocal overtones are quite similar while the writing and combined sounds of the instrumental members of the band do provide a different flavor.
[Note: I received a copy of the EP for review. While this didn’t effect my review, there’s my full disclosure.]
The overall sound of this EP is less of the dream ethereal nature the Blue Transmissions and more along the lines of ballad pop. Trying to peg it, while fun, is not all that informative, so let’s dive into the pieces themselves. Shangri La is an ode to that notion that we desire to share our best moments – that fabulously slowly and chromatically shifting sunset, those perfect vignettes of a street side café with early light filtering over your cappuccino and croissant or lovely mundane moments of: “…tangerines/ and here’s the scene/ I got the light just right / and the Beatles in the kitchen.” I don’t know if there’s irony in this, but there seems nothing missing in this symphony of sound. While it starts with a simple guitar and Ms. Loren’s voice coming together on the melody, as it moves on, layers of instruments (cello, voices, piano) converge to create a more complex sound mix. As if that someone came and joined in the moment. I love the play with complexity as it’s broken back down to Ms. Loren a capella then to layers and next to an instrumental interlude. The tapestry of sound woven in this song is just right.
The sentiment of Shiny New Thing is that we will bob together on the sea of life whatever waves may come; this is reflected in the bouncy beat of the music. She sings of her willingness to be the “shiny new thing” to the end: ‘Til I stop shining/ The light of your days/ ‘Til we grow sick of trying/ Or ’til we live with the crazies /Or we’re pushing up daisies/ Or slide into the steep sea/ With the angels below.” We will be the ones who ramble life together: “I’ll be the bread in your mouth/ Poetry on the table/ The one who remembers/ To weave all the fables…” These slightly crazy lyrics looped into this bubbly song make for a wonderful combination of ardent sentiment and a light heart. Rather than cloying or heavy on the notion of sticking together, this celebrates the wackiness of life in riding the rapids together.
Sunshine in Disguise seems to pair the first two songs where we’re stumbling along together and that’s precisely how we have those missed moments from Shangri La of perfect (and not so perfect) vignettes shared. Sharing those moments (“I can taste the sunshine in your voice when you’re singing along”) keeps us both shiny new things for each other (“So let’s stay and dance all of our prayers until the dawn”). Clearly, I love this song. While its beat is up, it’s also more directed. The moment the drums start the rhythm to the final tone from Halie Loren, there is purpose and play, poignancy and whimsy.
Paint the Stars provides a sonic impressionist image drifting near the edges of jazz and pop where we sense the stars and crickets, taste the ocean in the sand and leave wrapped in devastating joy. I love the textures of the song, how the individual clear notes of the piano infused in the overlay of Ms. Loren’s voice and then the layers of the percussion, guitar, and layered voices come in and out and all weave together this wonderful harmony as the melodic narrative thread continues through it. This song epitomizes this group; it all comes together to make for glorious sound, brilliant images where the whole woven together takes on a quality no individual element quite matches.
A Million Suns, Vol. 1, is a great celebration of summer, love, and beauty, and in these days of so much hate and violence, an homage to love and beauty is to be cherished. The combination of Daniel Gallo’s writing (and guitar playing), Halie Loren’s vocals and the precise yet lyrical playing of Katherine Dudley on cello, Bobby Stevens on bass, and Beau Eastlund on drums bring together magical moments on the EP. I cannot recommend it enough.