Album Preview: Moon Safari to Release Fourth Studio LP, ‘Himblabacken Vol. 1,’ in August

Moon Safari

The Skellefteå, Sweden native progressive rock band Moon Safari will release their fourth studio LP, Himblabacken Vol.1, via their own Blomljud Records, on August 21st.

When music critics encounter bands with lush vocal harmonies, the default comparative is The Beach Boys. This isn’t without good reason, of course; the role of The Beach Boys in the foundation of what we know as pop music today is indelible. However, at a certain point, the reference starts to feel anachronistic, as there have been several bands since who have had fantastic vocal interplay. One such group is Moon Safari, who despite the enormous pop appeal of its music, remains in the progressive rock underground — though it’s unlikely it’ll remain that way. Due to jaw-dropping epics like the 31-minute “Other Half of the Sky” (from 2008’s Blomljud), the sextet has turned many heads in the prog community, but anyone who listens to its music cannot deny the accessibility present, even on the more ornately arranged tracks.

With their 2005 debut, A Doorway to Summer, and 2008’s Blomljud, Moon Safari demonstrated a prowess with multi-layered vocal arrangements; however, a certain refinement was needed. Unsurprising for a prog outfit, Doorway runs at just under an hour, and Blomljud runs at a whopping one hour and forty-five minutes. Many prog fans won’t bat an eye at those lengths, but for music like Moon Safari’s, where the arrangements are heightened and mellifluous almost constantly, there’s a drowning out effect that inevitably takes place. On cuts like Blomljud’s “Methuselah’s Children,” which is a fine track in nearly every respect, the sheer amount of hooks and vocal harmonies are suffocating, and as a result all of the melodies — intoxicating though they are — become over-saturated.

What a relief, then, is 2010’s Lover’s End, one of the best progressive rock albums of this still-young decade. Clocking in at just under 50 minutes — that golden mean of a running time — the album takes all of Moon Safari’s strengths and compresses them into eight elated, joyous tracks that never outstay their welcome. It’s a wonder that Lover’s End is lyrically themed as a breakup album — it sounds celebratory throughout; when the group sings, “Without you in my heart/I can’t breathe” on closer “Lover’s End, Part II,” it’s hard to tell if you’re supposed to feel happy or sorry for them. With moments like this, it all comes down to the vocals, which despite being top-tier on the band’s first two LPs, are even better here. The a cappella harmonies on “Southern Belle” and the end of the pop masterpiece “New York City Summergirl” are absolutely immaculate, and when joined in the mix by the multifaceted musical arrangements, they still don’t lose their power.

With only an album teaser and a tracklist available to get a sense of Himblabacken Vol. 1, it’s reasonable to infer that Moon Safari are keeping to the success of Lover’s End. With the longest track running nine-and-a-half minutes, the group is sticking to the concise-yet-intricate songwriting that made their last LP so phenomenal. This is one to get excited for; just don’t compare these guys to The Beach Boys.

Watch an album teaser for Himblabacken Vol. 1 here.

Himblabacken Vol. 1 Tracklist

1. Kids (2:07)
2. Too Young to Say Goodbye (6:28)
3. Mega Moon (8:21)
4. Barfly (4:47)
5. Red White Blues (5:08)
6. My Little Man (2:55)
7. Diamonds (6:42)
8. Sugar Band (9:33)

Stream the entirety of Lover’s End via Bandcamp below; the 13-minute epic “A Kid Called Panic” is also available as a free download there. (You can also pre-order the new album in a digital format through Bandcamp.)

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