Chicago has always been a great city for improvisers, and this project, led by Matt Schneider, takes full advantage of that fact. On These Stars, Moon Bros. is Schneider plus members of Iron & Wine, Tortoise and Cairo Gang, with the band pulling his guitar songs into all sorts of directions. On Western Vinyl.
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It’s a Chicago affair! Sort of. I’m reaching for a narrative because this is basically a slowcore barnyard record, but ‘These Stars’ involves crater jock Matthew Schneider, post-rock noodler Dan Bitney (of Chicago’s Tortoise), a local Iron & Wine pal and even a member of the city’s psych-pop dudes Cairo Gang. Piece it all together and you’ve got a lot of the state’s improv heads, settling down to an album of lightly-brushed porch pop. Acoustic guitars, near-silent percussion and a bottomless barrel of twang? I’ll take it.
It really doesn’t sound like they’re improvising. Schneider’s tunes have preset emotions and chord sequences, and the picking flows as easily as some of Sun Kil Moon’s best early moments. Tunes like “Pitch” do meander, but with a shimmering perfection, the twanging riffs rolling off the tongue after Schneider cruises through a few verses -- it’s only in the outros these songs seem to find some time to relax on their intentions, becoming pleasantly wanky. Mostly, this is deeply melodic drivel, with each band member showing an innate understanding of the other -- “El Coneto”, an instrumental number, concentrates itself on particular guitar figures through which the band raise twanging melodies, as if aware of their destination.
Those who like to think countrified indie folk is authentic in 2016 will find a lot to love here. “Oh So Cold” is a lovely, fluid song, Schneider slurring verses into choruses and rising in octave like Josephine Foster reaching the crux of one of her points on ‘Blood Rushing’. “Wool Blankets” is a homely, rapid-pace number a la the Tallest Man On Earth when he didn’t write fake War On Drugs covers. Whether or not they’re tinkering and experimenting, making it so as they go, Moon Bros have made something quite reliable indeed.
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