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Johnny and the Moon

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On this Canadian trio's self-titled debut, Johnny and the Moon (apparently the name of the frontperson and the backing band, though it is not immediately clear) create a pleasant collection of lower-key but affecting songs that stand out in an era of overstated pageantry that seems to define the current state of North American indie rock. Beginning with an adaptation of the traditional song "Green Rocky Road" that establishes a mood of gentle rambling, thanks in part to lead singer Johnny's calm, slightly wounded voice, Johnny and the Moon deftly suggest any number of recent roots nicely recombined. While the widescreen approach of bands and producers like the Flaming Lips and Dave Fridmann creeps in from time to time — the deep echoes and keyboards on "Kid Heaven" are just two examples of many — something about the group almost suggests a more classic alternative in a mid-'90s sense. It's not grunge, it's not lo-fi, it's another kind of approach that's alternately warm and reticent in both singing and playing. Meanwhile, the quick banjo strumming on "The Ballad of Scarlet Town" and "Oleanna," among other songs, suggest even older roots in turn, while the hollers and clattering rave-ups on such pieces as "When You're All Alone" similarly touch on both the past as idealized and as reimagined by modern musicians working in the field. By keeping his singing gently downbeat (but not lacking for energy), Johnny invites the listener in, and even well-worn tropes like the combination of acoustic guitar and harmonica on "All Things Gonna Come Back Around" have their own power.

Johnny and the Moon, Johnny and the Moon
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