- Vocal Perfection
Review by Rodrigo Concha
Hey all, since this is my first review on Progulator (thanks to Matt’s encouragement), I’d like to give you a brief background on my prog journey. :)
I have not always been a progressive rock fan. In fact, I used to be a huge punk rocker (I know, I know…) and it was not until my junior year in high school that I started to see the light. A friend of mine came to me with what he called an “epic” that he thought I’d really enjoy. Little did I know that I was in for a 30-minute treat and for quite a life-changing experience. Said epic was none other than Transatlantic’s “All of the Above” and I immediately began my prog journey. Ever since I have tried to expand my prog horizons in order to explore what’s out there in the prog world, and let me tell ya, it’s been an awesome experience! (Punk rock out the window!) Ever since, I’ve listened to everything from classic prog rock albums from Yes, Genesis, ELP, Triumvirat, Procol Harum and Rush to Neal Morse, The Flower Kings, Steven Wilson, Anglagard, Riverside and Dream Theater, and I’ve loved them all!
A couple of years into my prog journey I came across what I like to call a sub-genre of prog—something I like referring to as “beautiful prog.” And this beautiful prog was brought to me by none other than Sweden’s Moon Safari. First song I ever heard from them was “A Sun of Your Own” and from then on I’ve been (madly) in love with these guys. I love every single one of their albums and singles that lead up to their most recent release, and just FYI: rarely does a day go by when I don’t get by Moon Safari fix, even if it’s just one song (in that case I like picking one of their epics J…). These guys are THAT good, and they are SO worth any time spent gracing one’s life with their music.
Having said that, I’d like to tell you about their newest release Himlabacken Vol. 1. Be warned, however, I’m more a “how-does-music-make-you-feel” type of guy rather than a music expert, technical critic, and a “what-in-the-world-do-the-lyrics-mean” guy (though I do think of those things periodically). Anyway, I’ve been anxiously waiting for this album all year (no joke…), and ever since I got the chance to listen to it I’ve been (madly) in love with it.
Himlabacken starts us off with a constant-bloom-esque intro called “Kids” that is simply beautiful. Short and sweet I’d say. The song’s primary focus is to introduce the listener yet again to Moon Safari’s vocal prowess. Honestly, there’s no other prog band (that I know of at least) which can surpass Moon Safari’s vocal arrangements. “Kids” is certainly a perfect example of what these guys are capable of doing when singing together in harmony (yes, all of them can sing).
Next on the list is “Too Young to Say Goodbye.” Oh. My. Awesome. Catchiness! Moon Safari practically smacks us with a little dose of their own “beautiful prog.” The song in and of itself has a cool groove to it mixed with the guys’ technical capabilities. Personally (and as a guitar player myself), I’m a big Pontus Akesson fan. Right when you’re singing along to the song and enjoying the incredibly catchy tune, Pontus delivers what Jack Black refers to as a “face-melting” solo. Altogether, this sing may as well be on the mainstream radio because it is incredibly catchy and finely crafted.
Next is my favorite track on the album: “Mega Moon.” Can I say “masterpiece?” Well, of course I can, it’s my review, and in my opinion “Mega Moon” is a beautiful work of art. The song delights us with a wide range of playing styles (heavy, psychedelic, mellow, proggy, even a little broadway-like at times… you name it), vocal performances (including a Queen-esque post-chorus section that will blow you away), and just pure awesomeness! Seriously, this song will go down as one of my top Moon Safari favorites.
After that, we have “Barfly.” I can totally see myself just bang my head and sing to this song all day long. This is one of those songs in which you well yell out “Hey! Hey! Hey!” to its beat. Barfly’s groove coupled with Petter’s vocal performance, the Akesson-trifecta and their instrumental technique, Johan’s skillful bass, and Tobias Lundgren’s phat drumming will leave you screaming for more and more Moon Safari.
Following Barfly we are given “Red White Blues.” This song is a PERFECT example of why I refer to Moon Safari’s music as beautiful prog. Seriously, if your heart is not filled with faith, hope, and love, then, my friend, you need to listen to it over and over again until you do (and you will). Just to give you a sweet taste of this beautiful song: “And I’ll follow you wherever you will go, down the dark and lonely road inside your soul. I’m your ally in a war with no victory, if there’s one thing I can tell you what is pretty ain’t always sweet.”
Then we have “My Little Man.” This is a particularly interesting song since it a solo performance by Pontus Akesson singing to his new-born son. The song perfectly illustrates a dad’s feelings toward his son in such simple words. Heck, I’m not even a dad and I already want to sing this to my son. I may or may not have shed a tear or two while intently listening to this song the first couple of times.
“Diamonds” is where Moon Safari simply shows off their proggy talents. This is probably their most technical song in the album, but they still manage to make it a very catchy, proggy tune. This song’s prog feel to it is one of the reasons why I initially fell in love with prog in general (and subsequently why I fell in love with Moon Safari). It’s different, it’s catchy, and it’s well thought of. It’s definitely not one of your usual popular songs that seem like there was little to no thought put into the art of music.
And last but certainly not least comes my other favorite song on the album: “Sugar Band.” I think this song pretty much sums up what Moon Safari is all about: it’s beautiful, it’s catchy, its vocals are out of this world, its instrumental arrangements are masterful, and it’s gloriously epic. My favorite sections throughout the song involve only a piano and Simon’s delightful voice. Altogether, I’d say that Himlabacken Vol. 1 sounds exactly like Moon Safari has always sound. You can tell it’s the same guys behind each song, and you love the music all the much because of it. And yet, to me this is also a different Moon Safari from the one I’ve known for years. I hear and feel a much more mature band, who knows what they’re capable of doing and who are not afraid to go above and beyond what they’ve done before. To me, songs like “Mega Moon,” “Barfly,” and “Sugar Band” are great examples of this familiar yet new Moon Safari. And I’m (madly) in love with it I can’t get enough. After having come out with what’s quite possibly the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard (“Lover’s End pt. III Skellefteå Serenade” that is), Moon Safari comes back with a decisive masterpiece.
My ONLY complaint about the album is that I wish I could get more of it (sort of like a junkie wanting more and more of his drug cuz the stuff is just too addictive). And all I hope is that Moon Safari will continue to supply us with more and more progressive narcotics.