James Blunt: Moon Landing

Although a pleasant listen, James Blunt’s latest album Moon Landing isn’t a particularly innovative one.

James Blunt

Moon Landing

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2013-11-05
UK Release Date: 2013-10-21

“I have never been a beautiful boy / never liked the sound of my own voice…” That autobiographical lyric is how British singer/songwriter James Blunt opens “Bones” from his fourth album, Moon Landing. When an artist possesses a truly distinct, pronouncedly different voice from the multitude, it can work beneficially or adversely. Many artists in such a position have experienced the sweet taste of success with a breakout single or album, only to later find themselves as "has-beens". For Blunt, success came in gargantuan proportions with remarkable and ubiquitous hit, “You’re Beautiful”. Since earning multiple accolades for the ‘song that could’, Blunt’s career has cooled considerably - at least in the US. Blunt never been able to match the success of “You’re Beautiful” or parent album Back to Bedlam. While Moon Landing has some unique facets and cues, it doesn’t seem to aim for a new group of fans.

Moon Landing is a solid affair, though by no means describable as an innovative ‘tour de force’. “Feel the Sun” kicks things off more restrained than one might envision for an opener. After taking an antithetical approach through balladry, the cut expands into a fully-developed, soaring number. After reaching its peak, it cools, ending as subtly as it began. “Satellites” contrasts with more of a ‘groove’, which sounds incredibly crisp within the production. The sound still trends conservative, but with a dash of the ‘tongue-in-cheek’, giving Blunt more of a lighthearted persona. The chorus adheres to ‘pop guidelines’ with its big sound, where Blunt’s clear vocals sit commandingly atop the production. As for the songwriting, it’s both thoughtful and carefree, whether “She’s from a long lost tribe looking for the light…” or questioning life’s ultimate existence (“...For all we know life’s just a dream / who the hell knows what it means / stop the world and sing with me”).

Lead single “Bonfire Heart” is the main attraction for sure, with it’s folk-pop driven sound. Enthused, Blunt delivers memorable lyrical moments including “Your mouth is a revolver / firing bullets into the sky” and the less profoundly poetic “...I’ve been looking at you /for a long, long time / just trying to break through / trying to make you mine…” Schmaltzy? Definitely, particularly the chorus where “people like us, we don’t / need that much, just someone that starts / starts the spark in our bonfire hearts.” Another bubbly song with ‘heart’ in its title follows via “Heart to Heart”, which is similarly pleasant. The highlight is the call and response oriented format of the verses, which Blunts lead and background vocals trading back and forth. Neither “Bonfire Heart” nor “Heart to Heart” reinvent ‘love’ or the pop song, but are enjoyable.

“Miss America” continues to show off Blunt’s nuanced pipes. Beginning more restrained, by the bridge, things have grown considerably. The lyrics continue to be ‘dramatic’, specifically “Does another voice sing in heaven’s choir tonight / to fill the silence left behind / and I don’t know what goes on in your mind / I’m sure it’s enough to make me cry…” Definitely one sensitive dude, that’s for sure! His vocals don’t shine as commandingly on “The Only One”, where the balance between production and lead vocals seems a bit off. He atones vocally on “Sun on Sunday”, even if the slower tempo makes the beautifully performed cut a bit of a bore. Sure, it’s chivalry at its best, but lacks some excitement and pizazz. Apparently Blunt and company received that memo, and went all-in on “Bones”. The rub? It is excessively overproduced, taking away from its good intentions.

“Always Hate Me” comes back down to earth, predictably peaking structurally during the refrain. Regardless of any predictability, the sweetness of Blunt’s falsetto is undeniable. “Postcards” and “Blue on Blue” prove to be respectable closers. “Postcards” tropical-oriented pop sounds a bit clumsy at first, but grows on you, particularly when a guitar solo arrives. “Blue on Blue” is more ‘tried-and-true’ Blunt, only with some added flair via harmonized vocals, strings, and a spectacular ending signaled by “I’m coming under fire”.

Ultimately, Moon Landing is another solid album by Blunt. Like many adult-alternative artists, Blunt finds himself trapped in that ‘middle-of-the-road’ categorization. The biggest flaw of Moon Landing is it’s lack of forward-thinking artistry; it is not an innovative nor flashy affair. Because of this, the album should satisfy hardcore fans but may struggle to recruit fresh blood. Quibbles aside though, Blunt’s voice has lost none of its polish or uniqueness. Still an acquired taste? Of course.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.