Beach Moon/Peach Moon is a San Francisco-based indie pop project composed of Robert Prisco and various live musicians. Kite Without a String is their debut album, I’m pretty sure, and it came out yesterday (June 29) as a cassette on Paper Trail Records. Let’s get down to business.
BM/PM specialize in a specific brand of polished, clean indie pop music which puts vocal harmonies (“The glass is always full… of something, ah-ha”) and guitar melodies at the forefront of its sonic hierarchy. On “Philosophy at 23/ at 24,” we hear a lilting-and-pleasant descending guitar riff with a full drumkit which appears very sparsely, and low in the mix when it’s present. Cute bell tones (mallets?) and coy vocals are given the front seat, which is nice, but I still think that this track could have used a stronger rhythmic approach – at least a few seconds of intensity to counteract all the mellow/pretty melodic stuff.
The second track, “Party in the Backseat,” follows the same songwriting pattern: clean guitar, clean bass, low-mixed drums, soft vocal harmonies in the center. We’re treated to some louder cymbals and tambourine here, which is a very welcome variation, but I’m really wishing by 6 minutes into the album that there was more variation in guitar tone. The rhythm and lead tracks sound almost entirely clean, I wish there was at least some delay or crunch on the lead. The last minute or so of the track features a pretty noticeable increase in lead guitar volume and rhythm section intensity, plus some alternating vocal harmonies; by the time the last note fades, I’ve been won over, but I still maintain that a saucier lead guitar part would have been pretty sexy in the first half of the track.
“Answer Tide” has me thinking of Beach House in a good way – slow jam with vocal focus and mallet melodies. Now that I think about it, BM/PM could definitely use some drippy synth tones (or shimmering ones) to mix things up; mallet melodies are cute every so often to accentuate vocals, but they’re not my favorite mainstay instrument (we hear them again immediately in the beginning of next track). Speaking of ‘the next track,’ “The Fog” is similarly charming and mellow until the last minute, when a few guitar layers set up a long period of tension with squeaking and squealing leads soaked in reverb in a very pleasant fashion.
“Answer Tide” also had a sort of hectic ending to it – if it were me making this album, I would have extended these deep cut track endings into longer songs. Love that experimentation with tense bridges and pleasant resolutions. “Firefly Stars” and “What Color?” display exactly the same properties – it gets interesting about halfway through, and by the ending of each track I’m left wondering why I wasn’t hooked at the beginning. I know that sentence doesn’t do justice to nine minutes of music, but there it stands. “What Color?” does have my favorite lyrics on the album, though!
Through half-awake dreams
Painting pictures buried
In a half-asleep mind
I grew up and forgot what color the world is
I grew up and forgot what color the world was.
All in all, Kite Without a String is not a bad pop album. It’s just not something which really pushes my boundaries as a listener, you know? This music isn’t advertised as mind-expanding, world-exploding material – it’s clearly SUPPOSED to be a pleasant, comforting listening experience – and yet I still do feel a lack of textural variety. Formally, the songs are all simple in the best of ways, and your lay-listener will probably enjoy the moody pop vibes that BM/PM successfully lays out. It does “oohs” and “aahs” EXTREMELY well and has great guitar layering with clean tones, but I’m left wishing for more variety in melody instruments (more guitar tone experimentation/get yourself a MicroKorg PLEASE) and sometimes the lyrics can be forgettable. Instead of saying anything about the title track, I’ll just leave it here for you – it’s my favorite all-the-way-through listen on the album: