Album Review: Moontype – ‘Bodies of Water’
Posted: by The Editor
Few of today’s new bands carry the distinct, palpable potential of Moontype. The Chicago trio of Margaret McCarthy (vocals, bass), Ben Cruz (guitar), and Emerson Hutton (drums) met while studying at Oberlin College, though that isn’t where the project took hold. The three knew each other but didn’t solidify as friends until they wound up in Chicago. A handful of the songs on their excellent debut record, Bodies of Water, began as solo material McCarthy had worked on, but their collaborative effort has made even those tracks feel at home here.
If there is one theme throughout each track Bodies of Water, it’s that no idea is ever half-baked. Whether Moontype is trying their hand at a wandering ballad, or serving up one of the record’s many scorchers, they are giving their all, and noticeably so. “Anti-Divinity” moves with the rapid restraint of a slot car and draws you in. “Your Mom” begins as a delightful piece of jangle pop before morphing into something much more imposing. McCarthy’s voice fades into the wall of sound being conjured, and the result is masterful. Then there is “About You,” the record’s second single and one of the best songs of the year. From the moment you absorb its opening line “looking at you with my ‘fuck me’ eyes,” you are being carried away by it. This opening trio of songs dispels any notion of passive listening – this is not a record you can just play in the background. They also perfectly into each other, and the energy the band builds in one carries over.
Moontype isn’t only here to make music that knocks you over, though. Tracks like “3 Weeks” and “When Will I Learn” find the band playing with the softer side of things. “3 Weeks” sounds like a lost Bright Eyes song with its curious guitar and folksy demeanor. McCarthy’s delivery even calls to mind Conor Oberst. When the song ends, though, it is apparent this was just a chance to catch your breath. “When You Say Yes” is a scathing cut and finds McCarthy using its verses to detail the defense mechanisms she’s been forced to adopt. It, like many of the record’s high-energy numbers, wastes no time blighting the listener with arrangements imbued with the power of a gale-force wind. The chorus is a mess of fuzz and distorted vocals that feels like something you could get lost in. McCarthy will often repeat lines in a way that feels robotic. It makes the whole thing feel like what would happen if Palm threw their synth away and went for a more jagged rock direction.
“Ferry,” the album’s lead single, is a masterpiece of titanic proportions that combines the band’s two apparent modes into one. It begins slow and wistful, only for its chorus to sweep through like a storm surge. It’s a song with the tenor of someone trying to remain stoic and composed, despite those inevitable bursts of emotion. As its scope expands and it begins to fade away, you can see just how meticulous the arrangement is, and the details that may have otherwise remained hidden are brought to light. Bodies of Water would be a good album if this were its sole peak – it speaks volumes that while this is the highest, it is not a monolith. This is the rare album that has enough radiant power that it doesn’t have to rely on a live setting to feel fully formed. Sure, these songs would benefit from having an actual room to thrash to them, rather than one’s desk chair, but the electric joy that music displays in that arena is already here in its recorded version. Moontype has truly captured lightning in a bottle.
Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal
Eric Bennett | @seething_coast
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