Boston folk group Lay Low Moon divided their opening salvo into two EPs: One Summer and One Winter. Combined they offer ten tracks, but it's a mistake to assume that the two EPs are merely two halves of one album. There are stark differences between the two in numerous ways.
One Summer is, in my opinion, the main release of the two simply because it features the full band. Singer/song writer Sean McKenna is joined by three others for a general, albeit mature, folk sound. Their strength comes in the form of mid-track tonal shifts, small stylistic flourishes and lush sounds throughout. All three of these elements are on display with the opening track “Salt Water Taffy.”
It features acoustic and electric guitar to start as McKenna remembers a scene with someone dear on a beach. There's a twinge of sadness to how bare it is but with the second verse the bass enters and everything starts to glow, even though the tone of the reminiscing is still the same. Finally, to really catch the listener's attention, there's a rise-and-fall Moog run in the bridge, a throw back to older sounds that adds a dramatic flair before the end.
The remainder of One Summer follows similar patterns, save for “Your Heritage.” The imagery is oddly distant and abstract (“Everyone I know's a secret/kept underneath the Brooklyn bridge”, “I live on a smoldering boulder/on the west side of the sea”). This sort of verbal mish-mash makes up the entire track, but to cement the dissonance the electric components of the song go full sci-fi in the second half, creating a sinister edge. That sort of strangeness succeeds at keeping things fresh.
One Winter is McKenna's solo effort. With a layer of lo-fi haze it sounds less produced than its counterpart, though that isn't to say that it's rough. His voice is still strong, smooth and assured, and his playing (acoustic guitar) makes seamless transitions from single-note melodies to full-on chords.
But for me the biggest strength of One Winter is its sense of unease. Though the melodies are still quite upbeat and bright, the writing wanders into conflicted territory as McKenna's thoughts border on self-doubt (“In the Air” and “Miles and Miles”) and uncertainty of the future (“All Affirming”). The standout track here is “Miles and Miles” where the rapid playing and delivery cram a swirl of emotional strain into two minutes without losing McKenna's welcoming tone of charm.
Though the two EPs have a different sound overall, it's safe to assume that if you like one then you'll like the other. That being said, folks looking for something that's easier to follow will likely feel more comfortable with One Summer, while those who value expressive writing might prefer One Winter.
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