A few years ago, Wymond Miles, the lead guitarist in San Francisco garage-rock group the Fresh And Onlys, began writing solo material. But then life got a little busy. Miles got a degree, became a father and released three albums in as many years with his band. Now that things have supposedly settled down (the Fresh And Onlys are prepping yet another album due out this year) Miles is ready to show the world what he can do on his own.
He caught everyone’s attention with Earth Has Doors, his debut EP out earlier this year, a dramatic work that reflected the existential chaos in his life as he approached the age of 30. His full-length, Under The Pale Moon, comes from a similar melancholy. Miles wrote and recorded the album this past winter, after a friend and a few family members had recently passed away, so death is a common theme on the record; “The Thirst” describes “Death’s kiss upon your lips” as “a gentle curse,” and another of the tracks is titled “Lazarus Rising.” While his first EP, made up of songs that were years old, dealt with growing older, this album more directly asks what a life is worth.
The sound, a reverb-soaked voice over simple, New Wave-y rock progressions, has been done before, and so has the melancholic questioning of life’s importance. Perhaps the most impressive feat here is how Miles is able to package all of these sounds in easily accessible, inventive pop songwriting. Every song is catchy and pleasant, especially “Pale Moon” and “Singing The Ending.” There is also enough variation that things stay captivating. “Run Like The Hunted” is essentially a slowed-down, chilled-out, ’70s metal song, yet the very next track is reminiscent of Beach House without synths. He even delves into country jamming a bit with his noodling on “Bandlands.”
This album is a fairly straightforward expression of Miles’s troubling times. While less in your face than his work with the Fresh And Onlys, the album stands its ground and ends on a powerful note. The last track, “Trapdoors And Ladders,” weaves an extended metaphor, comparing the states of life and death to a house and an attic. While those who have passed are “caught in the attic, looking for trapdoors,” Miles is left “looking for ladders.”