The Moore Brothers - "Good Heart, Money and Rain" (Aptos)
The Moore Brothers have been making music since the late ’80s, but their fifth and latest, Aptos, arrives on the heels of a publicity boost courtesy of fellow Californian Joanna Newsom. The duo joined Newsom on 2007 her European tour, and she puts in a guest appearance here, contributing harp to “Good Heart, Money and Rain.” The wider exposure is certainly merited: Aptos is, while humble and unassuming, compelling from start to finish, and both brothers are first-rate singers and songwriters.
The Moore Brothers’ sound is consistent throughout, generally consisting of sparse arrangements of guitars, bass and drums, which leave ample room for the flawless harmonies that are nearly ubiquitous. Despite the acoustic guitars and harmonizing, the brothers deal less in folk than in light pop. While they aren’t strongly evocative of any particular group or period, they clearly owe a debt to mellow early ’70s fare (Simon and Garfunkel in the harmonies, CSN on the David Crosby-esque “Aptos”, and America on the radio-ready chorus of “Heard About You“). The duo split songwriting duties evenly, with Thom penning the odd-numbered tracks and Greg the even ones. Like their almost indistinguishably similar voices, however, their work blends seamlessly together. Thom’s tracks are built around quirky stop-and-start melodies, and are generally brief and tightly wound. Lyrically, they tend towards character sketches, which aren’t fully fleshed out short stories (like those of say, Ray Davies), but rather oblique and evocative portraits (the lonely drummer girl of “Iraq” and the titular recluse of “Henry Alexander,” to name two). Greg’s, on the other hand, are generally mellower and more unabashedly lyrical, at times suggesting nothing so much as a Californian version of the Clientele (both musically and vocally, especially on the title track and “Pet Sidewinder”), evoking their almost-otherworldly melancholic beauty and dreaminess. While not radically different enough to constitute two irreconcilable aesthetics, the two tonalities complement each other well and lay out a propulsive push-and-pull between a more upbeat and energetic approach (Thom) and a less urgent, leisurely one (Greg).
Both lyrically and musically, the songs on Aptos are a strong set. At once effortless and masterful, the album suffers from no missteps or low points. While it may not deliver the utterly unique sound of a Joanna Newsom, it easily fulfills the expectations to which her endorsement gives rise.