I couldn’t count the number of late night drives I’ve taken in my life. From New Jersey’s backwoods, Jersey Devil single lanes, to the interstate monstrosities on the road to Los Angeles, the strange and lonely late night drive has always been a time spent deep in reflective thought.
Thoughts of the past, the present and our unseen future crowd the head. Illuminated by dashboard instrumentation and the constant sound of the tires click-clacking on the pavement. It’s when we witness the sights and sounds that are genuinely alive after the witching hour.
And the music, thematic and syncopated sounds always set the tone for the journey. Odd, otherworldly melodies snake their way into airwaves crowded with tent revivalist redemption and car salesmen sweating for rent money as the horns of Coltrane wail warnings to stay awake throughout your brain as shadows move deep into the untamed sectors of blackness far beyond the car windows.
And when you put that favorite CD in the player, the one that means the most to you, that’s when the miles peel away like the act of folding time itself. As you swirl deep into the meaning of messages, messages written specifically for you, you come to understand your circumstances and are able to read the signs. Love, loss, elation and sadness all raise theirs liquid heads in the round robin cacophony that takes place in the human mind.
Moon Motel are a folk art collective that understand these feelings, and they write musical passages that are more likely to be found on those lonesome roadways than anything you hear on the pop charts or in local watering holes. Actually, what they do ties in with much more than just social acceptance and getting discovered by some salty suited record exec from Manhattan. Moon Motel projects the solace of all of our experiences with love, regret and the jagged journey back to the world of being OK.
The CD is called The Lonely Romantic, and it’s comprised of seven tracks of introspective communication. Communication from the desolate heart, communication to myriads of individuals that have either experienced the back and forth chance of the romantic odyssey, or have empathy with those who have. This is melancholy at its finest. The regret, the understanding of an ending, and of that spark that always pulls us up and out of the mire.
Some CDs that I listen to wear their blood, sweat, and tears right on the cover, and this disc is unquestionably one of those. When speaking to founder Jason Sales about the background and bio requests, he immediately communicates the rare instruction that they don’t actually care to be known for who they are, but only about this project and what it stands for.
When describing this CD, Sales sums it up best: “The Lonely Romantic CD is a concept album based on actual events following the character, the ‘romantic,’ as he attempts to communicate with the loss of his love, the ‘sniper,’ unaware if his words will ever reach her. The lyrics deal with topics of loss, love, depression, drug abuse, communication and the meaning of friendship.”
The Lonely Romantic starts its first act with a piano piece of complex design in the unspoken empathetic reach called “Without You Home.” Stark, understated and dynamically fragile, the overactive mind is silenced here, driving home the point with orchestrated swells and deep, echoed pools of luxurious loneliness. Piano work of Javier Rebollar, (The Light Of Death) steers this, as well as most of the disc through its musical passage.
“Arms” features Sales on soft vocal delivery aided by the smooth and sensuous vocal of Chloe Demos, who becomes the sniper. The sniper represents the one missing from the romantic’s life, and she rises and disappears with beautiful and haunting skill. Guitars chime between melodic key layers and pocket bass and drums.
“I Do” slides in on quiet, atmospheric wings, as Rebollar sets the tone with thick drum and bass that intersperse with sonic bridge guitars, passing like jets to fade on analog-warm piano rises, vocal plea passages and rhythmic movements far beyond the scope of traditional commercial composition.
“Adored” follows, as rambling acoustics carry Sales’ vocal rasp into the sparse, whispered verse. Short, poignant and gone, it’s tough to do this right, and it works well here.
Warm electrics ping and shimmer on “Bleed Out And Drown.” Thematic melodies stay focused as the Portishead-vibed production moves this along at the slow, dirge-like pace of a rainy day funeral procession. Skeletal arrangement drifts and parallels 1950s melodic rebellion with a minor twist before the song pauses, switching direction with shark-like methodology. Synthesizer drones dive, hailing sparse guitar in strummed isolation, and the lone saxophone coda of Andrew Demos.
The saxophone work of Demos—who represents the Wind in this musical theater—is bluer than blue, and quickly heads down the arabesque pathway of Sonny Rollins. Pianos are elegant and jazz-tinged. Steely Dan comes to mind. The flute work of Nicole Fischer is both ethereal and sunny, bringing memories of 1970s breezy summer days and comfort that upholds the notion that time heals all. This is easily one of my favorite pieces on this too short disc.
Moon Motel know that traditional delivery isn’t always the way to get your point across and at a running time of 11:39, this song breaks all the rules of an industry that should have never had the power to shorten anything to 3:05.
“Lungs” floats in on buoyant acoustics as Sales laments on the one too hard to pursue. The vocal line of realization tells it all as he says, “And I don’t believe in bleeding for anyone but her/She promised to keep singing for me/I’m swimming, but she is too hard to follow.” Once again, the sax work of Andrew Demos breaks the silence with soaring, melodic stepping stones that lead to the next reclusive verse before fanning out into the finish.
The reverb-drenched pattern on “We Were” engulfs the full spectrum, as distorted delays swirl between phase-shifted deliverance. Pianos rise under warped electric clarity as Sales (the romantic) accepts the reality of his situation. Reminiscent pleas to a subject long gone are present with “We fell down, when the tree that we planted hit the ground in a storm/We were born not three years before.”
Music has always been the zenith for transitioning through setbacks and the apogee when teamed with the greatest of life’s moments. If you love Manchester Orchestra, Ray LaMontagne, Damien Rice and old Coldplay, Moon Motel’s The Lonely Romantic is a disc you’ll want to embrace.
Moon Motel score well with this disc on several levels. The communication is good and the continuity flows from one segment to the next effortlessly. Combine this with a natural ability of using composition to reenact a story without the usual props and you have an outstanding and memorable release. The Lonely Romantic may not be the right cup of tea for everyone right this second, but eventually, somewhere down the road, you’ll be taking a deep drink from it.
For more information on Moon Motel, The Lonely Romantic and the insightful musicians that make up this sound, head over to facebook.com/moonmotel.