An Opening is the new album from Chicago folk rock band Minor Moon. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, fronted by Sam Cantor, then think a melting pot of folk, alt-country and Americana influences, all boiled together and cast into something both timeless and fresh—what we previously described as “lush and vivid […] somewhere between the classic sound of Neil Young and van Morrison and contemporary folk-rock from the likes of Grizzly Bear.”
The Minor Moon signature is their ability to take these influences and bend them into unexpected forms, swerving from the path well-trodden to create something very much their own. “I have always been a sucker for songs with big dynamic shifts and weird, unexpected structures,” Cantor tells Glide Magazine. “It can be easy for me to want to push and twist every Minor Moon tune into an epic journey, but that can sometimes get in the way of what’s best for the song.”
The record begins with a perfect example of this. ‘Hold Me Up (Liar)’ sees a languid, loungey atmosphere give way to graceful harmonies and sincere lyrics, punctuated with sudden stops and shifts, periods of just stark guitar and near silence. The band say that the song “paints a series of impressionistic images that explore how a person experiences their sense of self as time passes,” and aims to explore the notion that “throughout our lives we actually live many lives and say goodbye to ourselves many times.”
‘Sacrificial Animal’ hits another vibe altogether, the gliding harmonies held together with bluesy barroom folk rock a la Dr Dog. But, as we’ve come to expect with Minor Moon, the song is more than a simple good time jam. Instead, Cantor explores his Jewish heritage, confronting spirituality and secularism head-on, landing on the confused no man’s land that is the twenty first century where both poles come with exhausting baggage. “Maybe I feel betrayed,” he sings, “by the holy and the profane / Both will burn me out either way.”
‘Out Into Where You Are’ feels classic and classy, a slow dance in soft lit ballroom at the heart of a sparkling black city, while ‘It’s Okay’ finds Cantor on a remarkably normal day, distracting himself from existential anxieties by browsing products in a supermarket, casting himself in an imaginary TV show. These kind of ruminations form an important strand of the album, and represent another way that Minor Moon anchor their folk rock in the contemporary moment. An Opening is an album about “becoming, affirmation, disorientation, chaos, and calm,” Cantor tells Atwood Magazine, “it’s about being the container of more than you can bear alone.”
The theme is picked up on ‘New Blood (Dark, Dark, Dark)’, presenting a world that’s advancing faster than we can adapt to it. The voice is sad and wistful, as though some intrinsic human thing is being bartered away with the convenient automation of society, though there’s defiance too, new life rising to face the inhuman future with the same joy and curiosity as ever.
If ‘I’ve Known You For a While’ is a refusal to let go, then ‘The Mark’ is a more considered approach, stripping things back to guitar and Cantor’s voice, lap steel and piano just ephemeral adornments before horns blare in triumphant chorus. The transformation is complete perhaps by the record’s paradoxically-titled closer ‘An Opening (Parting Song)’. The song is one last grand and patient folk rock song that winds and glides with real feeling, and by its end the inconsistency of the title works itself out, learning that conclusions can be introductions of a sort too, breaks in the ways of things that allow new possibilities in.
At the faultlines in this dream
This is a parting song I’ll sing again
An Opening is out now via Ruination Record Co. and Midwest Action and you can get it from the Minor Moon Bandcamp page.