When Poor Moon, a side project of Fleet Foxes members Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott, arrived with their five-song debut EP, Illusion, in early 2012, they seemed like more of an extension of their enormously popular parent band than a separate entity. Though the songs wandered safely through a couple different styles, what stuck out the most was the blatant Fleet Fox-isms that Poor Moon employed shamelessly in their tunes. The EP seemed like a Frankensteined composite of scraps from someone else's songs and didn't bode very well for the band's future output. Excitingly, however, their self-titled full-length album holds on to the group's affinity for curious stylistic switching but drops the majority of the mimicry. While Wargo's soft, thin vocals and wistful harmonies on "Bucky Pony" still bear a likeness to those of Fleet Foxes main man Robin Pecknold, they're housed in a song comprised not of folky instrumentation but chirping bells, muted gong sounds, and rolling percussion. The moods on Poor Moon shift constantly, and this highlights how much stronger the songs are here than on the band's earlier output. Album opener "Clouds Below" is a gentle singsongy tune so sweet it borders on being a children's song, complete with cricket and blue jay sound effects. A few songs later, "Holiday" sways in the breeze with cruise ship instrumentation and faux bossa nova rhythms more in keeping with Jimmy Buffett's work than Gilberto Gil. The next track, "Waiting For," turns up the reverb on every element, delivering a modernized take on '60s pop that would make both the Zombies and Belle & Sebastian proud. The constant changes over the album's course means Poor Moon are taking a lot of risks, especially in comparison to how safely played their first EP was. While Poor Moon still owe a large part of their sound to Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, and the rest of the late-2000s indie folk movement, their debut sets them apart due to the chances it takes. The result is an album not only more interesting, but far more enjoyable. All the attention that was once paid to how derivative the band sounded gets redirected to how sturdily and slyly crafted these songs are, and how open to experimentation and unlikely influences Poor Moon actually are.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas