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Spirits of the Red City: Hunter Moon

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Will Garrison, lead singer and songwriter for the semi-local group Spirits of the Red City, doesn't have the prettiest voice. But in the context of the songs on Hunter Moon, the band's debut album, prettiness is totally irrelevant. Because Garrison doesn't sing simply as a means to let out his lyrics; rather, his voice functions more like the violas or cello that support him, always adjusting itself to the music, now slurring, now whining, now percussive. His vocals take on the dirty work of an instrument, tackling the tropes of rhythm and restraint, and the melodies come out richer for it.

While at root Spirits of the Red City might be defined as a folk band, there's something more mysterious going on. Maybe it's the layering of string instruments with trumpets and "found percussion," maybe it's the occasional deliberately atonal riff that passes sourly through a song, but the music seems intent on retaining a spooky quality. In effect, Hunter Moon sounds kind of like OK Computer, if OK Computer had been written in dust-bowl-era Kentucky. As implied by song titles like "Goodbye Don't Go," "Can't Come Home," and "Focus & Blur," a spirit of ambivalence wafts throughout the album. It's the sort of heartbreak you don't want to let go of, the joy you can't fully embrace. Taken together, though, all these emotional ambiguities and musical disharmonies somehow add up to something that, in the end, is incredibly pretty.