For a record that feels so transcendent and dreamy, Moonshine is an unexpected name. But, on second thought, maybe it isn’t. Get rid of the stereotypes in your head of the Southern US and just look at the word – Moon. Shine. Dave Hartley has made a record that feels otherworldly and shimmers in the process. It often feels a bit forlorn but there’s beauty there all the same.
I first encountered Dave in the early days of Tuned Up. I saw Nightlands in person long before I ever saw The War on Drugs (Dave helms the bass guitar for this group). I met him at that performance at Ace of Cups over 8 years ago, in Columbus. Last fall, our paths crossed again in Moreno Valley, CA; The War on Drugs was booked to headline Desert Daze Festival, and we were both staying at the same offsite hotel. The realization happened during breakfast one morning when I was sitting in the common area, killing time on this blog (probably). A guy stopped and asked me if I was wearing a Carriers t-shirt (I was). It was Dave. The conversation would come full circle 6 months later when I ran into Curt Kiser of Carriers at Columbus event (SoupFest – headlined by Alex Cameron and a soup competition).
Anyway, that was a long segue.
Dave Hartley’s vocals are somewhere between Justin Vernon and Seam Beam in terms of their cadence and tone. His vocals excel in their own way; primarily as just another instrument. But an effective hook emerges from the haze every once in a while. “No Kiss For the Lonely” is the closest thing to an earworm on this record.
Another inkling I had while listening to this record I couldn’t quite place until just now are some vague similarities to the electronic edges of Sufjan Stevens. The layered, breathy tenor vocals are the main thing that does it for me, but although this is no Age of Adz, Moonshine holds its own as a quirky indie record that goes beyond being background music (though it could serve that purpose well too). The chillwave inspired, lush “Down Here” lifts my mind up into someplace a lot less down to earth than one might expect. In fact the more I listen to this record, the less down to earth it seems – though its grounded. Which shouldn’t make sense, but it does.
Awhile back I heard a comedian talk about country music. Dusty Slay said something to the effect of “country music will make you reminisce about times you never had.” It was a joke obviously, but a similar effect happened to me while listening to Moonshine. It makes nostalgic for places I’ve never been.