Even with indie breaking down subgenre barriers more and more in the past few years, noise pop has remained fairly consistent for better and worse. On one hand, it’s made for a number of great bands, but at the same time, it’s easy for bands to sound stale right away by replicating what’s already been done: write a pop song, don’t learn what production is, cover the whole thing in fuzz, and you’re done. And I say all of this as a noise pop fan.
Which makes Moonlight Bride, and Twin Lakes especially, a breath of fresh air. Twin Lakes is the follow-up to the band’s buzz-generating debut Myths in 2009. As far as noise pop goes, Myths was fairly typical, but exceptional at the same time; the songs ran a little longer than most, and the band had some Deerhunter-style experimentation. The core sound of Moonlight Bride is present on Twin Lakes, but in sharper, more excited focus. The EP counts somewhat as a warm-up for a tentative album later this year with a refocused line-up, and if Twin Lakes is anything to go by, that album will live up to–if not surpass–Myths.
Right off the bat with “Diego”, Twin Lakes tears out of the gate with a muscular sound. The production and mix are surprisingly sharp; everyone comes through crystal clear, something you want with a band like this where everyone’s doing something interesting that adds to the song. Moonlight Bride might be classified as noise-pop, but they approach the subgenre through a 90’s alternative rock lens. Listening to “Lemonade” and “Versinthe” together makes for a Sonic Youth style song/noise jam combo, and the band’s distorted guitar tones are more My Bloody Valentine than Vivian Girls.
The general advantage that EPs have over full albums is that, with planning, not a second goes to waste, and that’s the case with Twin Lakes. The pacing is fantastic: “Diego” and “Lemonade” make for an accessible, delightful opening before the ambient interlude “Versinthe”, then “Drug Crimes” and “And The Death Ship Had a New Captain” fill out the experimental ending section. Each song is well crafted to boot: “And The Death Ship…” in particular could drag at over six minutes, but keeps the tension and dynamics going, so the run time breezes by. Going back to the 90’s alt inspiration, Moonlight Bride have the knack for loud-soft dynamics not seen since early The Smashing Pumpkins records, and Sonic Youth’s fearlessness to let a song take a turn if it wants to (“Drug Crimes” shows this excellently).
But underneath layers of “inspired by” and “sounds like”, Moonlight Bride is still very much their own band. Even in noisier moments, the band never loses their sense of melody or texture; there’s a lot of care in these songs. “Lemonade”, a not-quite-three-minute, mostly clean guitar, sing-song melody, indie pop song could disappear into years of downtempo indie pop, but is instead a great first single with staying power. “Diego” balances dynamics, pop, and noise in a delightful opening track, and “Drug Crimes” is tuneful instead of turgid.
The EP isn’t out until Tuesday February 28th, so I highly recommend getting it then. Twin Lakes is noise-pop done right; the musicianship is tight, the songcraft is strong, and the hooks are there. It’s an EP, so if it sounds slightly too narrow, I say let it, and spread out more on the album. If a band’s been featured on New Music, then I think they’ve made a quality product, but Moonlight Bride’s honestly made me a fan. Keep an eye on these guys, 2012’s going to be a big year for them.