Full Of Moon (Nettwerk)
Bright-Eyed Wonderment (Behind The Beat)
FELLOW TRAVELLERS DON’T HAVE to be on the same journey or reach the same destination: it’s enough that their paths cross.
While coming at it from different ends, almost different disciplines you could say, and definitely different levels of experience, Georgia Mooney and Astrid Munday have ended up occupying similar territory this year.
Where we are at is the intersection of grand, often orchestrated, pop, charged Mittel-Europe bedsit atmosphere, bright and sparkling rock, and the moody intimacy of torch song. On a superficial level, Munday lowers the blinds and turns inwards, while Mooney throws back the curtains and pitches beyond the window – the former in black and sceptical of eye; the latter frocked up and still with expectations – but in truth each is navigating a path through light and shadow.
The bright-eyed wonderment of Munday’s title track slopes in with a question being asked in an echoey room by acoustic guitar and lowered voice but rises on strings and more reaching vocals, the suggestion of connection and maybe even love becoming wordless for a moment, and all the more expressive for that. At the other end of the album, Nothing On My Mind, takes its gated drums and throbbing electronic bass to the lip of a florid gloom, but as the voice half distorts and the backing vocals lift from monochrome to splashes of colour, repetition begins to mount a counterargument.
Mooney opens her album with a wavering Frenchness of vulnerable voice and more confident piano in War Romance that stretches out with strings and layers of voices softening the blow of the snapped drums, before I Am Not In A Hurry slowly shifts from acoustic guitar to glistening electric, from hesitancy to open invitation. But six songs later, Nothing Is Forever, a dappled sunlight Harriet Wheeler/Sundays moment of brass, quasi-operatic trills and trotting drums, the idea of impermanence is given almost a joyous shine, and What’ll I Do, mandolin and hint of accordion shifting the location nearer the Italy of Hepburn and Peck in Roman Holiday, makes a virtue of unreality as a salve.
This is a solo debut for Mooney, a member of folk/country outfit All Our Exes Live In Texas and something of a musical entrepreneur with her Supergroup live events, while Munday, a painter whose parallel recordings have ventured across dark-spirited rock, shimmering pop and low-key psychedelia, is now at her fifth album.
You can see some of that difference in the way that Munday confidently narrows her paths sonically and vocally, knowing her limitations but also exploiting them. Big City is almost a hum, a low sky pierced by thin shards of guitar, and she keeps to her lane, and the more tremulous Sister Mother Lover sees her offering both a talking vocal line and a cushion of voices around it. Yet in Better Days, a chugging minor-Velvets track of assertion, Munday flies loosely over the top, as if daring herself to fall, or asking us if we want her to.
Mooney is more likely to push through an extra idea or two, whether in the fluttering upper reach of Consider It A Gift, the way the exposed lead of What An Inconvenience shifts into stacked flourishes that bring to mind the Trio work of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, or Winter Island’s flugelhorn nearly melting into the thickening sound. But then she can end the album with Soothe You, a ballad of resignation where the strings might be expected to subsume the piano and the drama to overtake the measured vocal delivery, but they don’t.
Destinations reached for Mooney and Munday, in their own way.