Review Summary: across a crowded roomBlack Moon Days
, the sophomore release from British folk artist Joanne Robertson, wasn’t made for us. I’d describe it as a calm purge, as though this one’s for her
, but we’re welcome to observe at our leisure. Impromptu in delivery, it feels like something that couldn't be replicated to the same effect. The lyrics lend their hand to this, as while they aren’t necessarily useless
- God, no - their impact is fleeting, and only the occasional snippets resonate. Robertson’s words could be heart-wrenching references to love, or innocent mumblings; it doesn’t really matter, though, and her ability to utilize soothing timbre with jarring devotion is sublime. I don’t mean that to belittle the subject matter - something
is fuelling her craft - but I suspect she is content to leave me in the dark a little. Opener “Wave” begins with: ”hangin’ in the same places / that I knew back when I was yours,"
and continues hinting at feelings of remorse; but, Robertson is guarded. Just as I’m about to test the waters, she retreats like the passing tide, and I’m left fumbling, mouth agape.
Despite a gritty demeanour, barebones instrumentation, and vocals that dip in and out of focus, Joanne's singing is entrancing. Black Moon Days
feels stagnant among initial listens, as it’s easy to hone in on the dominant traits: candid, lo-fi production, raw guitar work, and her wavering voice, with few exceptions (frequent collaborator Dean Blunt’s presence on “Hi Watt” comes to mind). That said, various underpinning moods rise to the surface. “Secret” has a tinge of hostility, as though Robertson is trojan-horsing her target with guilt. Even the chord progression feels apprehensive, forgoing the feathery-soft picking on tracks like “Grams”, opting for chunky strumming, but without sacrificing her beautiful vocals. Once acclimatized to her unrefined delivery, little subtleties prove all the more enriching, like the sub-melodies strewn about songs like “Drops” or the titular “Black Moon Days” (a vocal highlight). Vocal hooks are unassuming here, and don’t necessarily grab the listener from the get-go, but plant themselves furtively.
The brashest moment on the album is the eyebrow-raising closer, “Bricklin”, a track seemingly tacked on, sticking out like a sore thumb amidst the guitar-driven affair. "Bricklin" is loud, childish, abrasive, nonsensical, and bound to cause a scowl or two. Despite this, the track is sculpted with nuance. It’s as if Robertson has grown bashful in her exposure, and resorted to lightening the mood with an outburst: a fun, innocent catharsis, splashing a blotch of paint on her self-portrait. In a way, it changes how the album should be viewed on repeated listens, like a playful movie twist. What felt like a somber confessional is now laced with wry wit, as if I’ve been toyed with, having delved into emotional territory that was never really intended for me. The artificiality of “Bricklin” - the loud, ugly drums and incoherent shouts - is a coping mechanism, and perhaps the realest
moment on the album. It singlehandedly validates Robertson’s motives, as it renders her truly vulnerable, allowing for empathy to soak in. Black Moon Days
isn't perfect, but it's beautiful in its flaws, and all the more endearing for it.