Sun Leads Me On is not a particularly apt name for Half Moon Run’s sophomore debut. Far from being guided by a single, distinct vision, the band sound like they’ve entered a period of light experimentation. Which is unusual, since they seemed to have already found a unique sound on 2012’s Dark Eyes, but there are two things that make this clear after one listen.
The first is that the instantly recognizable style they cultivated on their debut album is somewhat phased out. Sun Leads Me On is no less melancholy, but it doesn’t possess the same overwhelmingly dark atmosphere that Dark Eyes did. This is in large part due to a noticeable change in Dylan Phillips’ drumming. His characteristically mysterious rhythms have become much more standard, and as a result, the band loses a bit of their signature mysterious sound. While on the subject of the rhythm section, the bass, which was practically non-existent on Dark Eyes, is much more present, adding an interesting new voice to the texture.
The second thing that jumps out at the listener are the small but significant collection of songs that are so uncharacteristic of the band as to almost sound like another group. These little experiments usually produce good results; The folky backwoods tune “Devil May Care” has none of the expected moodiness or drama, yet it’s one of the most memorable moments on the album. “Trust” is unusually danceable for a Half Moon Run song, showing off the band’s playful side without sacrificing their sense of drama. Then there are the smaller moments; The almost-ironically cheery flute solo that opens the album in “Warmest Regards”; The surprisingly aggressive grinding of guitars at the climax of “The Debt.”
As effective as these incongruous moments are, and as much as they show a band testing the waters with success, a quick re-listen to Half Moon Run’s debut makes its younger brother pale in comparison. Dark Eyes is simply more consistent; there’s a less than ten minute difference between the two, but there are many more bare spots on Sun Leads Me On. Both Dark Eyes and the songs that make it up were shorter, more concise and more to the point.
Even if the band’s original vision has become a bit blurred, Sun Leads Me On still possesses more than enough remarkable material to warrant a listen from even a non-fan. “Hands in the Garden,” “Devil May Care” and “I Can’t Figure Out What’s Going On,” to name just a few, are at least on par with the material from Dark Eyes, if not far better. The band have not lost their way. Perhaps they will return to the brooding darkness of their first album while still pushing their boundaries, and three years from now we’ll see something new and way better than either album could have hoped to have been.
Written By Ian Down
Originally Published: November 2015