The whole affair of Wymond Miles’ debut LP, Under The Pale Moon, feels very clandestine and cloistered away from his work as lead guitarist in the San Francisco sunny-psych band The Fresh & Onlys. The songs don’t clear the clouds; they create them, and boy, do they hang heavy in the air. The solo work of Miles — going back to his mystic, meticulous debut EP, Earth Has Doors — has always been musically disparate from that of The Fresh & Onlys, and on his debut LP, Miles continues to chisel out a personality of his own as a gothic romantic unafraid of crossing the same treacherous emotional bridges that Robert Smith or Television Personalities did in the ’80s.
As opposed to the years that went into Earth Has Doors, Miles penned these songs in just a few short months, amidst a tumult of touring, recording, and coping with the loss of a friend and family members. The compressed emotion of that short period pours out of Miles’ voice, set back in his throat like so many of those post-punk Manchester singers of yesteryear (not since Billie Joe Armstrong has a Californian sounded so British). Miles’ flare for emoting with his croon is perhaps the most charming characteristic of his work, like the little growl on the chorus of “Youth’s Lone Wilderness” or the dramatic noir of “Trapdoors & Ladders” that rightly belongs next to any solid Nick Cave ballad.
Miles runs through the fields of melancholic ’80s pop with ease. His lead guitar lines shimmer against the picked bass. The lyrics that lay on top of the instrumentation drip with corporeal images of skin, heart, hair, hands, bodies, faces — tangible tokens of love and loss that exist only in the shadows of night or possibly on some other plane of existence. Though it can be a bit too maudlin at times, it’s refreshing to hear Miles’ words bleed on these tracks like the ink would’ve when he wrote them in such a fit of passion. “You want to be empty/you want to be free from me” he moans on “Pale Moon”, epitomizing heartbreak. The confidence Miles displays– in both recasting the dark British pop and allowing his own tearful honesty– reflects a crystal-clear image of an artist emerging from the shadows. Is that eyeliner I see?
Essential Tracks: “Youth’s Lone Wilderness”, “The Thirst”, and “Singing the Ending”