[15 February 2012]
An American can’t help but think of dourness and gloominess when mentioning Scotland. Current Scottish music no doubt contributes to this attitude; a quick glance at Scottish rock will find you looking at the soft heartbreak of Camera Obscura and the bitter musings of Arab Strap. You can now add new indie band the Moth & the Mirror to this list of bleak artists with their debut Honestly, This World.
The title of the album should be an indicator of the attitude that the Moth & the Mirror takes towards music – and the song lyrics reinforce this thought. The first words sung are “I just don’t want to see you like this”, giving more credence to a depressing album. But, the Moth & the Mirror’s attitude is nowhere as bleak as compatriots Arab Strap, as they manage to take a (somewhat) hopeful attitude on a majority of songs.
The Moth & the Mirror is technically a supergroup, but you would have a hard time recognizing the names of individual band members. Together, members have been part of critically acclaimed Scottish acts but, in the case of their respective bands, more charismatic frontmen Aidan Moffat (of Arab Strap) and Scott Hutchinson (of Frightened Rabbit) have garnered most of the attention. However, in the Moth & the Mirror, the behind-the-scenes members of said bands show that they’re no slouches. Especially impressive are new frontwoman Stacey Sievwright, whose voice can change in an instant from a quiet, gorgeous wisp to a powerful roar, and Gordon Skene with his intricate, layered guitar work. The combination of the two creates a sound that almost sounds like an indie pop take on ‘90s alt rock, but is nonetheless powerful and engaging.
Indeed, the Moth & the Mirror sound at their best and most commanding in their more driving tracks. Lead track “Everyone I Know” is a triumph and a fantastic opening statement. A thumping beat and crashing guitar and cymbals perfectly frames Sievwright’s earnest vocals on the song as it gradually crescendos to its climax. In one of the lull periods of the cut, Sievwright laments, “I don’t have the heart for this” before answering and contrasting with “You’ll be ok”. It’s a grand statement and amalgamation of parts that shouldn’t work as well as they do.
Nothing else on the record is as strong as the opener, but given the raw power of that track, that’s to be expected. Instead, the rest of the album gives the listener an eclectic take on the current state of indie rock, usually with an edge. Parts of “Boxes” would not sound out of place in a grunge retrospective with heavily distorted guitars and a loud/soft dynamic structure. In contrast, “Closing Down” is a fragile and elegant acoustic number that brings out the best in Sievwright’s vocals.
The Moth & the Mirror have proven themselves with Honestly, This World, an ambitious album that manages to hit true many more times than it misses. While members of the Moth & the Mirror have been previously overshadowed by more magnetic personalities, they have proven through this record that their musical chops are significant and impressive in their own way. The record doesn’t always flow smoothly, but the mishmash of songs is stronger than the sum of its parts. On “Fire”, Sievwright sings, “I am not lost, I am just wandering” – a perfect synopsis of the band. It seems like the members have wandered into an up-and-coming band where they can truly and finally showcase their talents.