Quiet but vivid
For their fourth album, the Lone Bellow turns the volume down for a more reserved tone than their previous work. Half Moon Light has the Brooklyn-based trio plumbing their own past to explore the intersection of light and dark.
The album’s first song is “I Can Feel You Dancing.” What comes most clearly through in the song, with its mellow trumpet playing and unsteady soundscape, is a feeling of longing. A feeling that you can’t quite pin down or contain in words, but which is most surely felt and which Zach Williams’ elegant vocals evoke.
“Wonder” retains the feeling of longing in “I Can Feel You Dancing,” but tells a finer story of having “taken every backroad I probably shouldn’t take.” In both songs Williams reminiscences on the past from the present with tenderness and empathy. It would be easy to focus on the song’s bleaker images (“the battered broken parts…there among the wreckage”), but Williams finds beauty in even the ability to wonder.
The album’s first half is united thematically and contained within a short piano “Intro” which begins the album and “Interlude” which divides the first act from the second. The cascading notes and warm chords envelop the album. The coldness of the piano mixes with the comfort of the chords in dedication to memories past performed by Williams’ grandmother on the occasion of her husband’s funeral.
The “Interlude,” more scattered and energetic than the “Intro,” launches the album into its second section, dedicated to moving on from the past rather than dwelling on it. Kanene Donehey Pipkin sings “Just Enough to Get By” with steely resolve. On “Martingales,” the band opines “if yesterday is too heavy, put it down.” After images of “waves of heat” and “wind cutting throughout jackets,” Williams asks, “how am I gonna find you when the dust settles?” on the song “Dust Settles.” Throughout the album, and especially the second half, the band maintains faith that the dust will settle.
“Finale” brings back Williams’ grandmother to conclude the album. As she plays, a chorus of voices, presumably the voices of gathered loved ones, sings along with her. The moment is far more intimate and meaningful than even the album’s most poetic language. The interludes sew together the albums other twelve tracks and, after looking inward for so much of the album, look outward and around and find just enough light to see in even the darkest night.