Exclaim!'s Staff Picks: Half Moon Run Are Having More Fun Than Ever on 'Salt'
Published Jun 02, 2023I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend an early listening session for Half Moon Run's Salt back in April, which quickly became one of the cooler settings for me to embarrass myself. Rapt in the music via the impressive sound system and wood-panelled ambience of GIANT Studio, I found myself blurting out, "That one fucks," to the band and some Spotify execs after "Goodbye Cali" — the ninth track on the LP — finished playback. They seemed to think it was funny, but, boldly? It was also correct.
And after having spent the last month listening to the record almost as a reflex — especially while exploring new cities on vacation in Europe (where this song in particular was frequently stuck in my head) — I stand by that exclamation even more. Perfectly picking up where the slow-burn Western scene "Gigafire" leaves off, "Goodbye Cali" is getting back on the horse with no name and riding off, leaving the dusty shrapnel behind you with jaunty click track backbeat and spitfire guitar tone. The self-referential songcraft building blocks of the second verse — "It's kind of like a key change, bridge-y thing / Before we start turning up everything" — is particularly delightful.
It's the band's first album recorded with live strings, and they're breathtaking. But the goofiness of tracks like "Goodbye Cali" and the cabaret rock revivalism of "Hotel in Memphis" remind that, to me, HMR are often at their best when they're not taking themselves too seriously ("Jello on My Mind," anyone?) and embracing their signature maximalism with a sense of adventure spanning all the various locations they list off on Salt. But also, the strings! Lush ballads like "Everyone's Moving Out East" and strikingly restrained closer "Crawl Back In" stick the landing on profundity.
Having dug into their personal archives and reworked old material, the band landed in the present on an immaculately sequenced body of work that maintains momentum throughout and pieces together threads from the international journey of their decade-plus career. Half Moon Run have grown up, but they remember who they've been — and they're having more fun than ever.