Valerie June
The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers


4.5
superb

Review

by Mathias CONTRIBUTOR (53 Reviews)
March 15th, 2021 | 35 replies


Release Date: 03/12/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An absolute triumph of psychedelic Memphis soul.

The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers is an absolute triumph of psychedelic Memphis soul. Valerie June is one of the few Black women currently prominent in Americana music and her newest release finds its place right towards the top of a recent crop of excellent albums in the genre. The Moon and Stars perfectly embodies what Americana music should be, namely a celebration of American music. Valerie June brings forth an amalgamation of genres and styles, from hole-in-the wall bar piano stylings, R&B soul that wouldn’t be out of place on Top 40 radio to, a sense of sixties psychedelia, and a healthy dose of gospel, all tied together with a pairing of Afrobeat and Appalachian sensibilities - And that’s all in the first sixty seconds of opening track “Stay”.

The fact that June was able to make a cohesive album with all of the influences on display is a testament in and of itself. This isn’t an album where every song encompasses a different style. Instead, each track is an exploration of genre bending excellence. “Colors” could be a beautiful-but-standard acoustic folk ballad, occasional banjo and all, but is paired with a beautiful string arrangement, harp highlights, and a steady electric drum beat that is found in the boyfriend country of the day, but somehow manages to add to the song as opposed to just being incredibly grating. “Colors” is followed by “Stardust Scattering”, which sees decades old psychedelic pop influences come to the forefront, both musically and lyrically. The dancing between genres is masterful and each song is tied together deliciously well, whether it’s through otherworldly, bohemian themes or June’s stunning vocals.

These vocals are most clearly allowed to shine on the album’s best track, “Call Me a Fool”. This is where the classic Memphis influence is clearest, made even stronger by the backing vocals of living Memphis legend Carla Thomas (who also reads an African Proverb leading into the song). “Call Me a Fool” has a standard backing of organ, strings, and drums, that builds into a powerhouse performance, led by June’s vocals. Her unique timbre that is on display throughout The Moon and Stars goes from guttural belts directly into a falsetto, with a range of dynamics and emotions in between. Put simply, the song is huge. Follow-up track “Fallin’” is hushed, just June and a guitar, making both it and its predecessor even more impactful. The track ordering creates what can be a discombobulated feeling at first, with the upbeat pop track “Smile” being the third song in this mid-album run, but the bouncing around ultimately becomes a strength of the record, as the listener’s attention is constantly reined back in.

“Two Roads” is June’s return to the clear Americana sphere. It begins as a soft, soulful number, although the steel pedal doesn’t take long to make its appearance. The song is a meditation on the classic Robert Frost poem, a swaying to-and-fro reflection on past decisions. “Two Roads” highlights the pure strength of June’s songwriting, as the panache that she mastered doesn’t disappear even in the relative simplicity of the song. Whether it’s the quiet meditation of “Two Roads” or “Fallin’” or the wild abandon of “You and I” and “Call Me a Fool”, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers is absolute divine, a sonic vehicle that can take you from a dance floor to a wooded forest floor in a matter of seconds. The album closes with “Starlight Ethereal Silence”, an ambient track that centers you, takes you to an Appalachian night sky, and prepares you to press play once again so you can once again experience the journey that June has prepared.



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user ratings (24)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2021


1553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I wish I was able to do this a little more justice, as I've been having a bit of writer's block (as witnessed by my summary just being the opening sentence of the review) and this is far and away my album of the year so far, but I'm just glad I was able to get something written.



Feedback is appreciated, and giving this a listen is very, very appreciated. I've gotta dive into her past work!

DadKungFu
March 15th 2021


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really looking forward to hearing this. Good writeup.

DadKungFu
March 15th 2021


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So far I love how cohesive it is despite all the stylistic variations, don't know how much staying power it's going to have though.

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2021


1553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I would say its certainly a grower. I kept returning to listen to it based off of a couple of songs (Call Me a Fool and You And I, namely) and more and more layers kept getting revealed on each listen. Glad you're enjoying it though!

DDDeftoneDDD
March 15th 2021


16986 Comments


Looks cool

Digging: The Armed - Ultrapop

ArsMoriendi
March 16th 2021


33672 Comments


Modern psychedelic soul??? Gonna check Stay and Stardust Scattering out of curiosity

Digging: Van Morrison - His Band and the Street Choir

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2021


24224 Comments


Nice, I could never get into her voice (with the previous one at least) but I'll see if this one clicks.

Digging: Zao - The Crimson Corridor

ArsMoriendi
March 16th 2021


33672 Comments


Yeah... from those 2 songs I checked her voice wasn't doing it for me

What a shame

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
March 16th 2021


1553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I could certainly see the voice putting people off. I personally love, but she’s got a unique tone to say the least

DadKungFu
March 16th 2021


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, it's the voice for me too. I'm going to give it a few more spins, the songwriting and arrangements alone are worth multiple listens, but something about her voice is slightly grating

normaloctagon
March 16th 2021


5129 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i dig her voice personally, just not a lot for me to grab on to here (but it's all very pretty!)



nice review mathias

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
March 16th 2021


2194 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Why The Bright Stars Glow is a beauty, kinda struggling with her voice but lots of good stuff here

nolerthebowler
March 16th 2021


8474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

her voice is dope as hell, v bluesy

fogza
March 16th 2021


1215 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree, I'm really surprised the voice is any kind of deal breaker. Sounds great to me

Digging: The Great Yawn - The Waves? The Tide and The Moon

nolerthebowler
March 16th 2021


8474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

im not surprised at all, its gritty. but gritty like this is dope to me and works with the genre

fogza
March 16th 2021


1215 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't even think it's all that gritty, it's got some character for sure though

nolerthebowler
March 16th 2021


8474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm finding I actually prefer the nasally delivery on "Stay" and "Call me a Fool" over her softer voice on "Colors" and "Fallin"



like you said, more character. I like vocalist who embrace the natural tones of their voice

DadKungFu
March 16th 2021


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think it's like she's going for this nasal bluesey kind of sound but coming across forced and without the warmth and charisma that makes that style good.



fogza
March 16th 2021


1215 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep, "Stay" is a really inviting opener. "You and I" slays with the mixture of tone and this weird modernised high doo wop stuff in the background. It's really cool.

nolerthebowler
March 16th 2021


8474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

idk, she's nailing it on call me a fool



You and I was the other stand out to me, great instrumentation



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