What is it about harmonic folk-rock that makes it so delightful? Indie-folk has ascended to new heights of popularity in the past few years thanks to a wave of bands with an emphasis on rich harmonies, and its freak-folk and baroque-pop siblings are also enjoying increased attention. So what are the criteria for an indie-folk band, besides the obvious harmonies and a reverence directed towards past greats like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or The Byrds? Featuring some sort of animal in the band name? What about origins in the Pacific Northwest? Are beards a requirement, or are they optional?
Seattles Moondoggies certainly seem to have all the makings of an indie-folk outfit, but how does their music stand out from that of their peers? Tidelands opens with Its a Shame, Its a Pity, an Americana rocker that showcases the bands three-part harmonies and acts as an impeccable transition into the organ-driven title track. It is this natural drift from song to song that makes Tidelands a cohesive album, as opposed to merely a collection of songs.
Moondoggies are at their best when shifting between tempos and genres on What Took So Long and We Can’t All Be Blessed. Acoustic numbers such as Empress of the North and A Lot of People on My Mind are more humdrum than affecting, and the opportunity for the bands harmonies to truly shine is never seized. Tidelands might work almost too well as an album to always be taken in as a whole. As Tidelands flows along incorporating a variety of styles and influences, such standout moments seem to have gotten lost along the way.
Released by Sub Pops Hardly Art imprint, Tidelands is a subtle grower of a sophomore album, which combines folk-rock with Americana. The unfortunately named Moondoggies may be short on hooks and may not take neo-folk in any new directions, but their layered, vintage sound proves rewarding after multiple listens. Above all else, Tidelands is the sound of a band sorting out their identity.