By Alessandro Improta
Since the release of their eponymous debut on 11/11/11, The Moth & The Flame have been doing nothing but playing great shows and releasing good music. Besides playing incredible events like Provo’s Rooftop Concert Series and South By Southwest, The Moth & The Flame have a long list of accomplishments. Their 2013 single, “Sorry,” topped KROQ’s Locals Only Playlist, and its music video premiered on MtvU. They have been associated with the biggest names in the Provo/Utah music industry including Scott Wiley, Nate Pyfer, and Mike Roskelley, and they have opened and toured with both Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees. With all this in mind, I was really looking forward to a fantastic album upon their recent release of their new album Young & Unafraid. I was not disappointed.
While there isn’t a true radio ready hit on this album – though the title track “Young & Unafraid,” “Sorry,” and “Red Flag” get pretty close – there is no weak song on this album either. Usually there are at least one or two songs on an album that I’ll just have to struggle through while doing reviews, but that was not at all the case this time.
What makes The Moth & The Flame such a distinct and fun band to listen to is their fearlessness and originality. They are not afraid to do what they want to do. This is evident in every second of the album, and every aspect of their music. Who out there has vocals that sound like Brandon Robbins’? What band uses that much fuzz on a bass? Listen to “Silvertongue” from 2:03 to 2:33. Who out there stops playing music halfway through a track for 30 seconds to instead play a recording of what sounds like a group of children at the playground? More interestingly, who out there is playing true rock with that much synth? Sure, you have your pop/rock/synth bands like The Killers, but they are heavy on the pop end of that slashed genre. The Moth & The Flame sit comfortably – though alone – in the spectrum somewhere between Editors (vocal range, melodies), with a touch of Walk The Moon (dance beats and heavy synth use), and Soundgarden (because if you listen closely, The Moth & The Flame often sounds like a modern take on grunge).
Now let me just talk about a couple of my favorite tracks on this album. “Young & Unafraid” and “Sorry” are some of my favorites, and I have already mentioned them. I won’t talk about those because I feel those are a couple of the tracks that I feel most people will naturally gravitate to. I didn’t want to talk about “Red Flag” for the same reason, but it’s just too good. Probably the most likely to be on the radio, and definitely the most anthemic, “Red Flag” just speaks to my soul. It’s probably because it gives me a few minutes of self-pity and catharsis as I listen to Robbins sing the line, “Love is a one-way street headed away from me.” The driven drums and bass line in this song make me look forward to summer, when I can play this one too loud while I drive too fast with the windows down.
“Round,” though mostly an acoustic ditty, comes with some extras you would expect this late in the album. The acoustic nature of the song really plays well to Robbins’ voice. The lack of instrumentation really allows the listener to appreciate the thickness of his baritone voice. It is spectacular, and filled with emotion. I have no idea what he is singing about, but I feel it. The song has a build from 2:30 – 3:55 that is equal parts erratic and calculated. Really, I’m having a hard time describing it. I’ll just say that at one point I am pretty sure I heard the sound of a tropical parrot yelling in the jungle, Melodyned to fit with the melody. Go listen to it!
All and all, this is another example of the Provo music scene birthing something original and fantastic. These guys deserve all the success that they are finding, and a whole lot more. The Moth & The Flame has made a fan out of me. I’m looking forward to hearing what they put out next, and seeing them the next time they’re in town.