Album Review: Merce Lemon – “Moonth”
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Merce Lemon is one of the first bands I remember being truly impressed by upon moving to their hometown of Pittsburgh a few years ago. The songwriting was tight, witty, catchy. Merce Lemon, herself an aloof yet charming front person, was made only stronger by her backing band, which memorably contains her father, Greg Pierce. Two years later, the group seems poised to break out of the once insular, now spotlit world of Pittsburgh’s music scene. Their debut for Darling Records, Moonth, sees them growing; they haven’t lost the open-mindedness that centered their early releases, but aren’t taken over by the high profile sound they now carry.
After several EP’s reminiscent of Girlpool’s lo-fi beginnings, Merce Lemon now stands as a full band project, sounding more lucid and bigger than ever before. Merce’s vocals, once tinny, though charming, now touch on the celestial grandeur of an artist like Angel Olsen, or Hand Habit’s Meg Duffy. Hand Habits might also be the nearest parallel musically. Expertly crafted guitars glide through much of the record, and Merce’s command over them is powerful. Cuts like the gorgeous “Disco Ball” exhibit just how adept Merce is to this kind of staging. Its evocative lyricism and spacious arrangement practically transports you to a dark, empty dance floor.
The playfulness of a song like “Remedies” from 2018’s Girls Who Jump In is not entirely lost, despite Moonth’s more cloudy stature. Like that track, there is even a song here, “Golden Lady Sauerkraut,” that evokes vinegar, albeit in a very different context. At only a minute long, the single “Baby” is a fluttering, jangly romp of a love song that rewards repeat listens. Besides, it would be near impossible to cast an album that ends with a song like “Horses” as self-serious. That song, a mere nineteen seconds, contains the shouted “what the fuck are they? / they’re eating all the hay / they’re horses.”
The record is at its best when these two opposing sensibilities find a way to lock into one another. “Dolly Sods Blues,” a lush song from the record’s back half contains one of the record’s most affecting, inventive lines, “the leaves are jumping to their death / have you thought of doing that.” It doesn’t read as malevolent, rather it feels like a genuine question in the face of uncertainty. There’s also dark, underlying humor in the insinuation that leaves are self-destructive. So often their fall from trees is painted as an honorable farewell, not the painful sort depicted here. “Chilli Packet” is a perfect instance of Moonth meshing the playful and sad. On its face, it’s a ballad, but with lyrics both grand and grounded. Merce reflects on the impermanence of our relationships, and how small things, like playing silly games with those we care about, sit just as heavily as the more serious moments. The tackling of conflict is relatable, even commenting that “time is a construct / if I want you here / I just gotta think about you / long enough.” It feels worth a shot.
Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal
Eric Bennett | @seething_coast
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