The introduction for “New Wildfire,” track one on Thom LaFond’s The Moon Leans In, follows a well known recording artist’s rule to a tee: “Excite the listener by welcoming them in.” Close, acoustic and intimate speckles of piano, pizzicato violin and nimble upright bass frame LaFond’s hushed, masuline baritone with gorgeous minimalism; a composition on par with a Kandinsky. “Did they take the moon you were after and give it back piece by piece?” the record’s first lyric asks, initiating a song and an album dense with gorgeous prose, artful arrangements and beautiful music.
Nederland, Colorado’s LaFond is most well known as the guitarist and singer in Denver’s four-piece gypsy jam rock outfit Banshee Tree. But on this, his debut full-length, he lets his inner, lunar voice shine – with a beauty somewhere between Andrew Bird, Shakey Graves and Dr. John’s “I Walk On Guilded Splinters.”
“Isolation Hymn” and a few other offerings on the album are more raucous, folk-garage affairs which fill a separate, less welcome energy than “Life as a Sigh,” “Almost Anytime,” “End Of Session” and “The Moon Leans In” which occupy that same, special chamber pop space established in “New Wildfire.” When LaFond gives the music open range to breathe, it’s stunning and unique.
“Oh, when we fight, the moon leans in for listening. And oh when we die, our mouths wide open, whispering,” he muses on the title track. His mastery of text is to be celebrated, and impressively, LaFond is not only an expert lyricist, but the album’s producer as well. He’s no question a talent, a prolific musician, and an artist truly enriching the Colorado scene. At its most banal,The Moon leans too far towards accessible, crowd-pleasing Jack Johnson or Martin Sexton vibes. That’s definitely cool and well executed, but at it’s best, it reads like the Nigel Godrich produced A Different Ship by Here We Go Magic – sparse, meaningful, nuanced and perfect – worthy of eavesdropping from celestial bodies and intentional spins from music fans alike.
Catch Thom LaFond fronting Banshee Tree, live on April 1 at the Fox Theater in Boulder. For more on LaFond’s solo project, visit ThomLaFond.com