Seattle's the Moondoggies did a lot of growing up between their first album, 2008's Don't Be a Stranger, and 2010's sophomore effort Tidelands, or at least that's the way it sounds; the jovial, ramshackle quality of the debut has given way to something far more ambitious, atmospheric, and artful without losing sight of the rootsy charm that made the first set memorable. Don't Be a Stranger was a likable collection of songs, but on Tidelands, the Moondoggies clearly set out to make an album, and these ten tunes work as individual pieces while cohering into a whole where the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and the playful, down-home flavor has been leavened with a full-bodied sound and widescreen production. Caleb Quick's keyboards play a more significant role in the arrangements, and the interplay of the overdubbed organ and piano lines recalls the dramatic but emotionally honest sound of the Band, while Kevin Murphy's guitar has gained a welcome bit of sonic muscle, and the harmonies by the group are spot-on and shore up the beauty and dynamics of the arrangements. Tidelands sounds bigger in scope than the debut, but the Moondoggies never overplay their hand here; the power of this music comes from the strength of the melodies and the intelligence with which the musicians play off one another rather than studio trickery, and the spare acoustic numbers "Empress of the North" and "A Lot of People on My Mind" fit just as well (and sound just as magical) as the orchestral effect of "We Can't All Be Blessed" and the sweet thunder of the title song. Tidelands takes the Moondoggies in some glorious and unexpected directions, and you'd have to go back to Wilco's Being There to witness a group upping the ante on the potential of their second album with this much success.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming