Album review: "Tidelands"
The current indie landscape offers a dizzying number of subgenres and 21st-century innovators - enough to overwhelm even the most diligent music fans. By contrast, the Moondoggies' homegrown rock seems downright old-fashioned.
Between the warm strums of electric guitar and Kevin Murphy's weathered voice, the band's sophomore album, "Tidelands," delivers a big, timeless rock sound that is distinctly American. The organ blasts that drive "Down the Well" and the rousing gospel-flavored vocals on "What Took So Long" show influences spanning the past several decades of rock.
Generally, the louder, larger-scale tracks are the most memorable. "What Took So Long" in particular gets an anthemic quality from the soft verses and freewheeling choruses. Murphy really works to belt out the songs, and his slightly gravelly voice is the most powerful instrument on the album.
But the band makes a conscious effort to balance things out. The lilting, oceanic pedal steels on "Uncertain" push the song's slow burn, and a pair of solo acoustic tracks adds a welcome contrast.
There's something comforting about the Moondoggies' straightforward arrangements and rootsy aesthetic. In terms of style, "Tidelands" doesn't do a lot of musical boundary-pushing - it's simply a well-executed Americana album.
-Dan Miller, Jan. 2011