It’s a shame that New Radiant Storm King aren’t better known. The New York/Northampton, MA quartet has been kicking out dependably roiling, twin-guitar-ignited indie rock for almost two decades. Yes, they’re that band: amassers of a deep, decorated catalog of releases on six different labels, and grabbers of cult appeal wherever they can find it. Like, say, Sloan or any one of an entire host of terrific rock crews both North American and British dating back to the late 80s, they don’t hit any one rock touchpoint in a particularly unique way—you wouldn’t find ‘em too easily without an accident or a recommendation. But that’s not the same thing as “formula done right,” or worse, being called derivative; NRSK is far too exciting a band for those lazy dismissals.
The thirteen songs on Moonlight make for a leaner, cleaner package than 2006’s blistering The Steady Hand, for better and for worse. The paint-stripping distortion that earns them plenty of comparisons to Swervedriver and other inspired noisemakers—and the jagged poetics that would invite Silver Jews suggestions even if guitarist Peyton Pinkerton weren’t a Jews alumnus—aren’t so much here. But the band’s deft attention to songcraft and lovingly burnished hooks are given more room to breathe, and some songs, like album closer “Fall Prey” and the la-la-la-punctuated “Midnight Comes” are downright pretty. One or two NRSK devotees I know call it “softening”; I’ll take the glass-half-full approach and say they’re continuing to expand their palette.