Led by Christian Wargo and Casey Westcott, supporting members of Fleet Foxes, Seattle-based quartet Poor Moon emphasizes similarly ethereal, harmony-heavy arrangements on its debut LP, but takes measured steps away from the Foxes' folk-pop sweet spot. Subtlety is still king here, but Wargo, taking on front-man duties, draws from a wider range of influences, jumping from psychedelic rock, to indie folk, to baroque pop. Still, even if Poor Moon possesses a bit more whimsy than its parent band (the opening two tracks feature cricket and harpsichord solos, respectively), Wargo's compositions mostly hum by pleasantly and inoffensively, lacking much of an emotional punch.
Paper-thin acoustic opener "Clouds Below" repeats a pretty acoustic lick, as a chorus of tranquil voices delivers a lullaby of a melody rife with Disneyesque imagery ("Tall tree swaying in the light before dawn/Can't chase a shadow while the shade is gone/Down came the jay bird singing his song"). "Phantom Light," a bouncy, percussive track, also teeters on the edge of silliness, with its existential musings on a candle that stays lit in the house of a dead man. It's a bit cheesy, sure, but the earnestness is refreshing, and the more stripped-down tracks feature a woodsy-guys-jamming-in-an-cabin kind of charm that warms up after a few listens.
Wargo's slight-but-pretty vocals don't work as well on the fuller tunes, where his voice comes off as timid instead of engaging. "Waiting For" and "Pulling Me Down," two poppier electric tracks, falter a bit behind his bland delivery. Acid-soaked psychedelic tune "Heaven's Door" and wispy slow-builder "Bucky Pony" meander somewhat aimlessly. The album closer, "Birds," is another warm, comfy acoustic song that leaves the listener ready for a nature walk ("And in the early morning hours/I've never seen so many flowers"), but in the end, Poor Moon is side project that's a bit too inconsistent and ho-hum to get very excited about.