Michael Feuerstack's 'Harmonize the Moon' Captures the Loneliness of Our Current Moment
Published Mar 18, 2021Is Michael Feuerstack Canada's most underrated songwriter? Since 1994, he's put out 13 solo albums (nine under the moniker Snailhouse, four under his own name), plus six as the guitarist for the Wooden Stars, several with Bell Orchestre (including this week's House Music, which shares a release day with Harmonize the Moon) and more guest spots and compilations than anyone could count. While his prolificacy is impressive, the consistency is staggering. Regardless of the project, there's clearly a classic Feuerstack sound he operates within, adding just enough twists to keep it fresh.
This isn't to call Feuerstack formulaic. His catalogue has carried this framework through a variety of sonic soundscapes, proving he's a workhorse who knows his strengths rather than a one-trick pony. His 14th solo album, Harmonize the Moon, continues this trend.
Still present is his ponderous acoustic guitar, his monotone but wise voice, and the atmospheric sounds that swirl behind him. His gut-punch lyrics sit atop it all, making you feel seen and sad in equal measures ("They won't even hear you and why should they? / The birds belittle your song.")
Yet it's also different. Coronavirus lockdowns, while incredibly difficult, created a situation where Feuerstack's natural musical inclinations — sparsity, silence, simplicity — are all intensified. Arranged and recorded alone in his apartment, the room feels like another instrument. It adds a depth to the sound, a deeper well from which his words echo out of.
Loneliness has always been a key ingredient in the Feuerstack recipe, but Harmonize the Moon seems to capture this better than most. Look no further than the haunting "You Can Relax" or the pensive "I Used to Be a Singer" to hear sadness in action.
Quarantine also shows up in the album's pacing: while never an uptempo artist, Feuerstack has seemingly slowed down even more. From the eternity-feeling pause between verse and chorus on "Too Kind" to the drifting sensation you get listening to "Valley," this album lives to mess with our concept of time. The fingerpicking is ponderous, the melodies sweet but slow. "In The Waiting Room" hammers this home: a slow, wandering track through a location designed to test our patience, it's brilliance seemingly grows with every listen.
Feuerstack's latest offering isn't cashing in our universal trauma. The pandemic isn't mentioned in the lyrics, there's no hints of it in the artwork. Yet it's subtle traces are there: in his prose of the power of nature, in the random snippets of conversations and life sounds that permeates the more tender moments.
Harmonize the Moon is an album you can sit a long time with, pass an afternoon dissecting lyrics and floating between the layers. Like any Feuerstack album, it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it changes enough to be rewarding. Feuerstack may never get his credit as one of our country's premier songwriters, but Harmonize the Moon is another glowing example of why should. (Forward Music Group)