When Poor Moon, a side project of Fleet Foxes members Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott, arrived with their five-song debut EP, Illusion, in early 2012, they seemed like more of an extension of their enormously popular parent band than a separate entity. Though the songs wandered safely through a couple different styles, what stuck out the most was the blatant Fleet Fox-isms that Poor Moon employed shamelessly in their tunes. The EP seemed like a Frankensteined composite of scraps from someone else's songs and didn't bode very well for the band's future output.
Seattle folk quartet Poor Moon is Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes), Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls), and brothers Ian and Peter Murphy (The Christmas Cards). Their inaugural release, the Illusion EP, was a comedown after the glorious harmonies on Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues. Wargo’s '70s folk arrangements are practically translucent on his band’s self-titled debut album—woodland tunes are not rare and only a few tracks here get the heart racing and stave off a bad case of bradycardia.
Side projects are almost always a tricky business to get into, especially when they are associated with a critically acclaimed band like Fleet Foxes. They usually fall into one of two categories: 1) A lesser retread of songs and sounds from the parent band or; 2) An inspired and unique work that can exist outside the pretense of the parent band. Poor Moon falls somewhere between both; hitting many of the same mistakes that side-projects often do, while still managing to climb out of many of its pitfalls with the help of some hefty musicianship.
Is there something about Seattle that makes born n' bred city kids croon like wayward bards gazing over the sheep-soaked English countryside? Because it seems like a significant fraction of the music that's come closest to deserving the oft-misapplied folk tag has seeped out of the upper left corner of the States. The latest album from that bucolic pool originates directly within the Fleet Foxes family as bassist Christian Wargo strikes out on a side project alongside keyboardist Casey Wescott and two of their non-Fox friends. The resulting self-titled record is one of the more deceptively polite and pastoral offerings of the year, swaddling dark narratives in charming acoustic timbres while remaining unflappably tranquil.
Poor Moon carries much more weight than your typical indie rock debut. A "supergroup" only in the most local sense, this Pacific Northwest quartet represents a who's who of acts regional and national: Singer/guitarist/primary songwriter Christian Wargo has played with Pedro the Lion and Danielson Famile, Casey Wescott with Crystal Skulls, and Ian Murray and Peter Murray with Seattle un-Googleables the Christmas Cards. But let's not bury the lede: The closest and weightiest association is with Fleet Foxes, which claims both Wargo and Wescott as prominent members.
It must be hard, when you’re in a popular band like Fleet Foxes with such a distinct sound, to branch out and create a side project. That, however, is exactly what Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott (with brothers Ian and Peter Murray) have tried to do. The pair have created Poor Moon and, after the Illusion EP released earlier this year, they have released their full-length, eponymous debut.
Poor Moon is a Fleet Foxes side project comprised of Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott, as well as members of Crystal Skulls and The Christmas Cards. On their self-titled debut LP, the group strips away the bulk of the pristine harmonies that have become the trademark of their original outfit in favor of a lower-budget, faintly sinister retro-folk sound. Where Fleet Foxes’ harmonies glisten like a clear Seattle sunrise, Wargo and Wescott’s voices play off one another in a darker manner.