The sophomore studio long player from the Montreal-based quartet, Sun Leads Me On finds Half Moon Run dialing back on the sweeping Fleet Foxes-inspired indie folk elements of their debut in favor of a more cosmopolitan approach. Writing was split between the band's hometown and a surfing sabbatical in southern California, and the 13-track set reflects that geographical disparity by offering up a bubbling crock pot spilling over with a frothy mix of West Coast electro-chamber pop and bucolic heartland rock. Aptly named opener "Warmest Regards" starts things off by coating everything in a tube-driven, sun-bleached '70s singer/songwriter patina that falls somewhere between Harry Nilsson, Stornoway, and the Zombies, while the highway-ready "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On" invokes the Eagles by way of Midlake.
On their sophomore album, Half Moon Run wear their influences on their sleeves. The quiet opening volley of "Warmest Regards" gives way to a record that bounces back and forth from Springsteenian rock to more complex Radiohead vibes, sometimes balancing the two at once. "Turn Your Love" pulls of this balancing act nicely, taking a quiet "I'm On Fire"-style guitar riff and surrounding it with a rhythmically complex percussion and spooky harmonies.
Take random snapshots of Montreal four-piece Half Moon Run’s second album ‘Sun Leads Me On’, and it resembles flicking through a playlist of separate acts. Opener ‘Warmest Regards’ is a post-sunset, round the campfire number, ‘Hands in the Garden’ operates in the hands of melancholic road trippers, and the revved up ‘Turn Your Love’ switches things up several gears. Threads run throughout these songs, but by and large it could easily be perceived as a band suffering an identity crisis.
One of the more interesting things about Half Moon Run’s 2012 debut album, Dark Eyes, was the fact that the band admitted to not really being friends: they communicated well musically, but didn’t particularly value each other’s company. As anyone who’s studied rock history knows, nothing helps build a strong friendship like two years of solid touring, and so the Montreal quartet approached this follow-up in full burnout mode: fraying relationships, fatigue and homesickness (“a little bit like being underwater,” is how the band’s Dylan Phillips put it). You can’t always sense it musically – this is more well-crafted indie-rock somewhere between My Morning Jacket’s shimmering alt-Americana (Narrow Margins, Everybody Wants) and Coldplay’s melodic bombast al a Mumfords (Turn Your Love).
On their second full-length, Half Moon Run lure us in with woozy, sun-drenched gem Warmest Regards, whose 60s good-times vibe and thick harmonies recall another (Fab) four-piece. Throughout the record, the Montreal dream pop musicians wear their influences on their sleeve, and this works for and against them. They're never quite rip-off artists, adding enough new blood to steer clear of imitation territory, but also sometimes end up dangerously close to alt-pop status quo.