Standard indie-pop for sunken hearts
Although Alison Sudol is known most recently for her starring role in the Fantastic Beasts films, she was in the music industry long before then. Under the moniker A Fine Frenzy, she released three albums oriented toward adult-contemporary listeners.
Now Sudol has decided to ditch the stage name and release this five-track EP, Moon. Sonically, the EP sits in the overcrowded realm of dreamy indie pop. Listeners will hear vocals, guitars, drums and synthesizers, all glistening with a generous serving of reverb. The occasional arranged strings and electronic noises also show up.
It is notable that Sudol is now using her real name, as Sudol sounds like she has turned deeply inward on this new project. This is definitely a headphones-on-in-solitude kind of record. Sudol tries to address her mental turmoil in her lyrics and matches this with slow, contemplative production. However, Sudol’s attempts at conveying her troubles to listeners only sometimes work.
The first two tracks have great woozy flows. “Escape the Blade” is beautiful and glorious. It opens with a mysteriously ambient piano lead that immediately hooks you in. The track glides through its haze, and the piano, cello and vocals softly cascade over the listener.
The second and best track is “Lonely Love,” which gives off East Asian vibes. The way the guitar is plucked makes it sound like a Chinese zither or pipa. The song also features the best vocals of the project. At the midpoint, the instrumentation nearly completely drops out to spotlight Sudol’s voice. It is a ballsy move for an indie pop record, and it sounds great. Sudol’s vocals quiver just a little to show that, despite the pleasant instrumentation, she is struggling with some inner stress and anxiety.
While the first two tracks are great, the mixes of the remaining three are not nearly as good at conveying the contemplative mood that Sudol is shooting for. The instrumentals sound too dime-a-dozen, too overbearing or too pleasant. The watery guitars on “The Quickening” sound like they could be on any dreamy indie-pop song that has come out over the past decade, and the track will ironically make the listener want to take a nap. The title track is so bad that as soon as the obnoxiously loud synth leads start wailing in the first couple seconds, it begs to be shut off.
Sudol’s vocals also hold the EP down. Sudol’s voice doesn’t have much range and isn’t particularly great at emoting. Perhaps Sudol is aware of these shortcomings, to the point where she overloads the vocals with reverb and effects and buries them in the instrumentals. Unfortunately, this production choice makes the lyrics and emotion fall to the wayside. The lyrics, while generally unimpressive, carry a palpable anxiety and sense of being lost in the world. But instead of making the listener connect with these troubling emotions, the EP just leaves the listener muddled and confused.
As it stands, this is a run-of-the-mill indie-pop project, with too much material that is neither memorable nor worth revisiting.