It takes a skilled pair of musicians indeed to turn in a record as assured as Secret Life. Daniel Benjamin and Maddie Wilde, the two halves of Toronto based Moon King, have crafted a powerful, enigmatic album; one that manages to be beautiful, creepy, and oddly tragic, often all at the same time.
Indeed, the band’s mastery of tonal mash up is their most impressive attribute. By never succumbing to a single distinct emotion, Moon King weave a tapestry of complicated airs; the stunning Impossible feels sublime in a way that is never reductive or dull, and the emotional catharsis that the song provides by its conclusion is as hard-won as it is moving.
Similarly, although the frenetic tempo of Hexe is obviously designed to light up a room during a live show, the gentle piano strains that seep through the work stop it from ever becoming overly extravagant, or easy to dismiss. This is music that warrants repeated listens; the full scope of Moon King’s talents can be missed on first hearing. The music of Secret Life grows on the listener in a myriad of interesting and unpredictable ways, ensuring the record is one that will be treasured and shared.
Although the debt Moon King owe to Krautrock acts like Can and the uplifting yet damaged shoegaze strains of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive is obvious, the band never succumb to simple imitation. Expansive, throbbing album opener Roswell has a feel and a flavor that is entirely Moon King’s own. Indeed, a lot of the songs on the album are stamped with a unique flavor, from the hypnotic, lush charm of Come Back, a track that manages to embrace a kind of world-weary beauty; to the impressive, affected guitar work of Golden Age. Just as importantly, album closer Medicine mixes a warm, open honesty with a power that verges on the mystical, providing the punchy conclusion any great record needs.
With Secret Life, Moon King have turned in a singularly impressive work. It’s the kind of album that has the capacity to take over a part of your life; before you know it you’ll be obsessing over ever chord change and lyric with a fervent devotion that borders on fanaticism. It really is that good.