In the music spotlight: Lo Moon

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Lo Moon | Phil Smithies

Lo Moon’s sound has a few clear points of reference, but they’re exquisitely chosen to arrow straight into the hearts of certain types of ‘80s/’90s UK alt-pop fans. The group builds from a stylish and substantial foundation of acts like The Blue Nile, Talk Talk, Roxy Music and Peter Gabriel. Influences notwithstanding, Lo Moon’s music is no throwback – carefully curated aesthetics are applied to captivating material with real staying power. “I was drawn to the way those bands wrote songs, and put flesh on them with production that was intricate, composed and nuanced,” says singer Matt Lowell. “That seemed like a good way to express ourselves in 2018.”

The group’s swift ascent follows the 2016 release of single “Loveless,” a sprawling space-pop gem that unfolds unhurriedly while Lowell’s tremulous tenor traces the silhouette of a lost love. “I do feel pretty vulnerable and exposed in these songs, but I’m finding that that openness is what people are connecting with,” says Lowell. “For a songwriter, that feels really good. When we perform, it’s cathartic. I can react to the emotion in the room as much as the emotion behind the lyric.”

The romantic undercurrent continues through Lo Moon’s newly-released debut album. “The album spans a long emotional journey,” says Lowell. “It’s a kind of love story. It represents a big part of my life, and my realizations about relationships – things I’ve done right, and things I’ve done wrong.”

The group formed in Los Angeles, where New Yorker Lowell was joined by Crisanta Baker and English musician Sam Stewart. The steady pulse of Baker’s bass during “Thorns” underscores the patience required to build a partnership that learns “to outgrow the thorns on the rose.” “That takes time, work and passion – commitment,” says Lowell. “I remember writing that song and feeling excited that I’d found a revelation for myself, about relationships and love.”

Although evocative synthesizer arrangements connect to the band’s sonic roots, Lo Moon is balanced by Stewart’s savvy playing. The guitarist creates glacial sheets of sound during “Camouflage,” and laces “The Right Thing” with dripping melody. He comes by some of his pinpoint pop sensibility naturally, as the son of Eurythmics mastermind Dave Stewart.

Although the elder Stewart has shepherded many bands as producer, he didn’t influence Lo Moon’s evolution. “Dave never heard the album until it was mixed, mastered and done,” says Lowell. “He was uninvolved with the process, except for becoming a very supportive fan of the band. He’s in proud dad mode, which is arguably cooler than involved dad mode.”

Lo Moon’s first headlining tour finds them returning to the intimate Subterranean, where they opened for MUNA last year. “All of the work that we put into the pot and started stirring last year is beginning to show results,” says Lowell. “If someone brings a friend who only knows one song, we can capture them for life with a great live show.”

Catch Lo Moon in ascendant now. Next time, you may need a telescope.

* Lo Moon, with Kraus, 8 p.m. Apr. 5, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, $10 (17+over);

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.

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