One of the best-kept secrets of underground music, Omaha singer/songwriter Simon Joyner is your favorite musician's favorite musician. Consistently active and firmly independent since the early '90s, Joyner's influence is apparent in much more recognizable names like Bright Eyes, Kevin Morby, Angel Olsen, and other top-shelf artists occupying the space between Americana and lyrically focused songwriting. Pocket Moon continues Joyner's reshaping and refining of the elements that have given his work such impact since he began. The arrangements are simple, centered around vocals high in the mix. Throughout his discography, Joyner has consistently evoked Leonard Cohen's grim narratives, Dylan's flirtations with the surreal, and Townes Van Zandt's blue-collar storytelling. Combined with his own intricate lyrical perspectives, these influences are sharper on Pocket Moon. The foreboding cello, spooky spare percussion, and fingerpicked guitar of "Tongue of a Child" make a perfect backdrop for an ominous Cohen-esque vocal performance. "You Never Know" runs through a series of everyday scenes that hold deeper emotional weight, stretching out with the same protracted lyrical rumination as Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan. The Dylan album even gets name-checked later on "The Last Time I Saw You, Billy." Joyner connects with the essence of masterful songwriters while molding that spirit into his own image. Pocket Moon comes decades into Joyner's celebrated work as a songwriter and represents some of his strongest, most focused work. "Morning Sun, Slow Down" simultaneously reflects on unreconcilable regrets and self-acceptance. Joyner's patient poetry is at its most developed and finds its way into some of his most sturdily built tunes. With an artist this storied, new listeners sometimes need a place to start diving in. With Joyner, any album could be a great entry point, but Pocket Moon is easily one of his best. Essential listening for any fan and a perfect example of what makes Joyner one of the more important songwriters of his time.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas