Moaning - Moaning (Cover Artwork)


Moaning (2018)

Sub pop records

Post-punk three-piece Moaning, shaped out of the Los Angeles DIY scene, have captured lightning in a bottle with their self-titled debut. Their music is simultaneously dreamlike and grating, a contemporary marriage of 80s shoegaze and aughts post-punk revival that achieves uniqueness without sounding derivative. The record is laced heavily with synth and bass, which will pique the interest of New Order and My Bloody Valentine enthusiasts, and it also gives vocalist Sean Solomon the perfect platform to exhibit the range of his gorgeously atmospheric voice. Moaning offers up an expertly crafted series of tracks that Solomon, bassist Pascal Stevenson, and drummer Andrew MacKelvie have produced as a result of their watertight alchemy, a dazzling union of musicianship and influence.

With the support of the iconic Sub Pop Records and after a decade and change of playing together around the LA circuit, Moaning is obdurately and noisily making a name for themselves. “Don’t Go”, the record opener, is driven by a pounding electricity shared evenly across the trio, conjuring a paradoxically energetic sense of doom. MacKelvie’s thudding drums let up for a maximum of eight bars the entire song and, paired with Stevenson’s constantly working bassline, generates an opaque firmament that welcomes Solomon’s remote, cavernous vocals. Much like the high energy and pleasantly gloomy shoegaze displayed on “The Same” and lead single “Artificial”, “Don’t Go” evidences the thrill and the noise that Moaning can tap into at any moment, as well as the outfit’s uncanny ability to write hooks and basslines that live and thrive as earworms.

Moaning also possess an aptitude for the lush and dreamy. The second track “Tired” is full of swirling, bending guitar riffs, meandering basslines, and synth progressions that echo the gothy haze of early 90s albums like Disintegration and Heaven or Las Vegas. “Does This Work for You” and “For Now” express a rhythmic buoyancy and ponderousness that come naturally out of triple meter time signatures, languidly oscillating between bright and dark tones. The bass and drums work together in sweeping syncopation throughout the tracks, as the guitar twangs, arpeggiates, and whirs both tunefully and dissonantly. Even the title of the song “Does This Work for You”, sans question mark, paints a picture that’s as brooding as it is apathetic, further emphasized when Solomon deeply groans “You can have everything / Take it all, take it all”.

Whether the band name Moaning refers to exclamations of woe or utterances of pleasure, the implied dichotomy is present in the record’s lyrical content and general tone color. Songs like “Misheard” and “Useless” contain moments of heartbreak and realization, like “There’s nothing we can do, you had to go / if I loved you, I guess you’ll never know” and “You’re not a liar, you just didn’t say the words / or I’m just stupid, or I just misheard”. The instrumental construction of the tracks are similarly emotive, featuring airy guitar solos, enveloping fuzz, and increasingly exploratory basslines.

The triad behind Moaning are no strangers to the music community, but this fresh iteration and ensuing debut release mark an invigorating milestone for the group. Straddling the line between post-punk and shoegaze, with a healthy twist of noise rock, Moaning have cultivated an intoxicating sound that showcases their strengths and comfort zones. Solomon’s haunting vocals and mysterious indifference fulfill their roles superbly, but are at times overpowered or subdued by the swelling instrumentation surrounding them. The band wields compelling dynamics for a three-piece arrangement and will achieve great things if they strategically equalize those forces.