It was about two years ago when I saw Houston duo Moth Wings play to no less than about 100 people at each of two shows in one week. For a while now, the younger crop of new musicians in Houston have been doing things their own way, booking their own shows in the burbs and building a fan base that most of us weren't aware of.
Houston's Moth Wings have always seemed to lead this uprising of sorts, touring consistently, dropping releases that incorporate pop structures without becoming a pop band, and releasing videos that are something different from the herd. On their new E.P. Open Swim, the two piece take their sound to a new level, employing pop hooks into an alt rock structure that's closer to old Weezer than current Weezer, and it's a beautiful thing. In just five tracks Moth Wings make their stamp on music even deeper while growing in the process.
Opening with the guitar fuzz of "Sellout," the downplayed vocals of singer and guitarist Spencer Fort sound like a mix of Millennial angst, suburban boredom, and self-deprecating alt rock goodness. The song has these murky bass lines, dual vocals, and catchy drums that blend together in a way that reminds you of why you love the Blue album from Weezer without lifting from it. There's something magical in how these two put a song together where they're treading lightly on indie rock with alt rock chords while adding pop structure in the most infectious way possible. They change direction a bit, and glide right into the undeniably catchy sounds of "Movie Night." The song in some ways reminds you of that first Foo Fighters album in how the song is arranged, where there's a sweetness that lies underneath while the song has the immediacy that most newer rocks bands have trouble achieving today. There's a breakdown at the end of the song that steers away from how the track began, and would turn most listeners off, however it works here and just adds to the intriguing way these two make music.
Changing direction a bit again, the opening of the third song "Open Swim" falls closer to the softer side that the band showed on their previous release Dragonfruit. Without the chill wave elements of that release, the song definitely has the same sensibilities while the build up that the track creates ends pretty quickly at just a couple of hairs over the two minute mark. However, the fourth track, "Sharp Edge" returns to form, offering a sound that feels close to the kind of music that bands like Foxing and Hoops combined would make. The melodic stride of the song coupled with Luke Gonzales' drumming give the song plenty of legs while it never really loses steam from start to finish.
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The final track of the five, "Lose Your Lung" offers up a mix of everything these two have done together over the years without feeling out of place on this release. There's an opening piano that gets mixed with snappy drums and an underlying synth mixed with Fort's more endearing vocal side. The song is closer to pop rock than anything else offered here, but it works in the best way possible without losing the listener in the process. There's something special about what Moth Wings is doing on this E.P. where they're seemingly showing listeners everything they can bring to the table without taking things astray. It's a diverse release without feeling disjointed, while holding your attention with each note that comes through your headphones.
Open Swim is available in all of the usual places on March 2, or you can pre-order it here. You can also get your own copy from the band when they headline their album release party and tour kickoff at The Secret Group also on March 2. The all ages show will also feature performances from Sad Cops, Ruiners, Guest Rooms, and Willows Field. Doors at 7 p.m.; tickets $10 to $12.