Bluntly put, halie and the moon is a band comprising five crackerjack musicians whose creativity, chops and sophistication would be breathtaking to encounter in any setting, much less little old Eugene. Tapping a tradition of intricately orchestrated and yet infectiously catchy pop music — think Beach Boys, R.E.M., The Jayhawks — the band composes music that is at once earthy and disarmingly cosmic.
To fully immerse yourself in the delicate beauty that is halie and the moon, skip forward to “Balloon,” the final track on the Eugene band’s upcoming debut album, Blue Transmissions: vol 1 & 2. Lifting aloft on a breath and gently strummed guitar, the song is a whisper of gossamer pop that envelopes the listener in an atmosphere forever threatening to evaporate. “Hey, did you get the news?” sings Halie Loren, her layered vocals weaving like a benediction. “I’m a balloon floating to you.”
Fragile and transcendent, “Balloon” recalls those quieter moments when George Harrison led The Beatles into the ether with a song like “Here Comes the Sun.” And now flip back to the album’s opening track, “In the Atmosphere”: Cheerful, beckoning, the song gains momentum until it practically crackles with triumph — an affirmation of unconditional love that ratchets upwards like an antenna. “Can’t you hear the sound,” Loren sings, her voice soaring, “blue transmissions ringing out?” The effect is electric, like catching a spark on your fingertip.
Together, the two songs that bookend the album also describe the two poles of halie and the moon’s strong appeal: Otherworldly yet intimate, their aesthetic is a kind of catch-and-release, grounded in pop smarts and yet forever urging itself into the firmament. The result is a symphonic, atmospheric sound that is no less mysterious and thrilling for being entirely accessible.
“All these songs feel like they’re from some place in the ether,” says guitarist and primary songwriter Daniel Gallo. “I have this feeling that all songs have already been written. You just channel it. You can think of it as an antenna.”
An internationally renowned jazz vocalist, Loren is the perfect translator of Gallo’s lyrics; her gorgeous, husky voice moves in and through the soundscape, capturing with equal parts restraint and playful passion the poetic yearning of the words. On “The Story (Never Told),” Loren sings: “I’m the girl inside your window painted blue, who holds the shadows, waves goodbye and shelters you …”
“I don’t feel like I’m carrying the song in the same way as in my jazz music,” Loren says of singing in halie and the moon. “It’s more like I’m creating a puzzle piece that was honed for that particular puzzle. I have to work my way into it very gently.”
This is an apt description for the entire band, and for how the players so seamlessly coalesce — puzzle pieces fitting together in a way that, in the end, seemed fated all along. The sum is greater than the whole of the isolated parts, as solid as those parts are: Percussionist Beau Eastlund and bassist Bobby Stevens are a rhythm section to die for, and cellist/vocalist Katherine Dudney is integral to the band’s lush sound.
Blue Transmissions (made up of a recently released EP and six brand-new songs) is an accomplished, captivating debut that reaches out to a broad audience with its effervescent pop sound. Halie and the moon will be celebrating its release Saturday, May 6, at First Christian Church, where they also performed a breathtaking show last year (the acoustics in there are angelic). As excellent as the album is, there’s nothing quite like seeing this band live; their love of performing as a unit comes through in an energy that is palpable and, dare I say, uplifting. We could all use more of that these days.
The CD release show (where exclusive copies of the album will be available, prior to its broad release) is also a fundraiser for Occupy Medical and First Christian’s organizations for needy families, including the church’s “Helping Hands” clothing and shelter supply room.
Halie and the moon plays 7 pm Saturday, May 6, at First Christian Church, 1166 Oak Street; $10-$25 sliding scale, advance tickets available through halieandthemoon.com.