Coming out of Brooklyn in 2011, The Lone Bellow has carved out an impressive path for themselves over the last 9 years. Signing with Sony imprint Descendant Records, the band released their eponymous debut in 2013 and Then Came The Morning in 2015, both hitting #64 and #44 on Billboard 200 respectively. An Americana Awards nomination for a group of the year followed, as did their third LP Walk Like A Storm in 2017. All the while, what started as a means for frontman Zach Williams to cope with his wife’s temporary paralysis has evolved into a unique folk sensation that has earned him and his bandmates more and more of a loyal fanbase at every turn.
Now in 2020 comes their fourth record Half Moon Light, a winding album of 15 tracks; more specifically 13 full tracks and 3 short interludes. The first of those full tracks, “I Can Feel You Dancing” follows a brief piano intro and off the bat introduces a pleasing mix of banjo pickings, piano and even a wee bit of horns. The vocal melodies are majestic and well-placed, carrying over into the background in the rousing and groovy “Good Times” which throws electric guitar into the pot with the brass and keys. “Wonder” brings things back down with a higher emphasis on harmony set against an intricately textured background, while “Count On Me” elevates those dynamics into rousing choral beltings and prime indie-folkiness.
“Wash It Clean” grooves subtly and keeps things at a restrained pace, once more allowing Williams and Kanene Pipkin’s flawlessly complementary vocal work to shine through. “Enemies” tenders things down even further with a focus on acoustics, leading into another brief piano break that sounds like it was recorded in an old bordello. “Just Enough To Get By” gives a chance for Kanene Pipkin to exercise her pipes, a tune equal parts sensual and soulful with brushes of organ and guitar suitably thrown in. “Martingales” follows much of the same vibe of “Just Enough”, albeit closer to folk and bringing Miller back to the forefront vocally.
“Illegal Immigrant” gives the microphone back to Pipkin for another scaled-back tune, leaving nothing to the imagination thematically: “Walls cannot hold us, from sea to shining sea”. “Friends” is especially indie-Esque, driving straight ahead as Williams delivers his verses in a distinctly folky stumble. “Dust Settles” hardly differs from a good chunk of the more restrained songs on the album, while “August” provides a more distinct finale with layers of effected guitar, slight strings and lighter doses of vocal harmony. One more piano segment formally ends the album, this time featuring a whole cast of people singing along; clapping at the end as the track fades out.
As Half Moon Light indicates, The Lone Bellow has carefully crafted and refined their sound and made both their harmonies and their texturing, to a lesser degree an important trademark. They represent some of the best indie-folk has to offer and are definitely deserving of the fanbase they have and continue to foster. Some tracks do get a bit too sonically similar, but not enough to annoy or be problematic. Overall, Half Moon Light is a soothing and pleasurable listen, and whatever comes next from The Lone Bellow will be an equally pleasant experience to behold.
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