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The Moth and the Flame

The Moth and the Flame
Indie rock that is dour yet dazzling, from the home of Donny and Marie.

Hometown: Provo, Utah.

The lineup: Brandon Robbins (vocals, guitar), Mark Garbett (keyboards, vocals), Andrew Tolman (backing vocals, drums).

The background: The Moth and the Flame are fulfilling a need, if indeed such a demand exists, for a Coldplay/Flaming Lips hybrid. They’re an LA-based three-piece who started out in Provo, Utah, home of Donny and Marie Osmond, which suggests a hybrid for which there is definitely no demand. There are two releases out there for your consideration: the two-year-old self-titled debut album, which was engineered by Mike (Skrillex, Deadmau5) Roskelley but you can’t really tell, deficient as it is in ear-punishing brostep; and the new EP, &, which was produced by Joey (Beck, R.E.M.) Waronker, whose imprint is probably more evident than Roskelley’s. They will have a second album proper, and first internationally distributed one, in 2014 – they are currently working on it with producer/mixer Peter (Interpol, the National) Katis, with string arrangements courtesy Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens). The bracketed artists in the latter two instances also have a bearing on the Moth and the Flame’s sound: it is lush, layered, often complex indie that references the last decade’s big boys of alternative rock: Coldplay, Radiohead and the Lips, with some nods to U2 at their more experimental.

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Their newer music evinces a sizable leap in terms of sonics and dynamics. Sorry, from the EP, is as brilliant as Flaming Lips, by which we mean it has the brightness, the sheer surface dazzle, of the Lips’ best music. There is a forward momentum to the track that is compelling, and the singer’s voice moves from mid-register to falsetto, the general sense of the lyrics shifting as it does. “Sorry for everything I’ve done,” he wails, something we say every morning to Mrs NBOTD. Winsome is percussive indie-dance, a bit like U2 when they Went Techno. Again, the music has an impressive rhythmical thrust (as Mrs NBOTD fails to say to us every night) while Brandon Robbins channels his inner Bono, only Bono when he’s trying to be cool and enigmatic, not a bellowing, pompous ass. Silver Tongue flits from psych to prog to grunge while Holy War – two minutes of shimmering keyboard chords, with the words “There’s a holy war in your life” repeated many (many) times – locates the middle ground between the serious/dour and the whimsical/cosmic. How We Woke Up also recalls U2 or Radiohead at their sincerest and most “meaningful”: this is trad indie with Big Rock Venue appeal and some play regarding dynamics and use of electronics. TMATF bring a similar sense of play to the promotion of their music. That debut album came out in the States on 11/11/11. For it, the band created 20ft anthropomorphic artwork which they placed strategically throughout their home town. Rumours that Donny and Marie reacted by going on a Mormon rampage are unfounded.

2020 © Jamie Lindsay Music