Moments in Grace – Moonlight Survived

Moments in Grace singer Jeremy Griffith has one of the best new voices in rock, almost like a youthful Ozzy Osbourne, but with a bigger range and better tone (and fewer obnoxious children). Griffith leads the band on one of the stronger debuts I’ve heard this year. The Florida-based foursome released a downloadable EP through Salad Days before signing to Atlantic, and producer Brian McTernan (Thrice, The Movie Life, Hot Water Music) gives Moonlight Survived a great feel with clever string arrangements and nicely placed background burps. Thick guitars penetrate each track and arena-rock drums make you want to throw your fist in the air. Or maybe just bob your head a little harder for those trying to play it cool. I’m not sure how to classify this band-“rock” is the best general description, though the band gets grouped with a lot of post-punk bands. How bout post-punk arena rock? Sure.

Almost every song is radio ready, but doesn’t sound forced. This is mostly due to Griffith’s lyrics, which tie the songs together into a real album, not just a collection of songs. Most anthemic choruses feel cheap after repeated listens, but the heartfelt words here give them staying power. The album opens with “Stratus,” maybe its strongest song: “Feeling the sunlight breaking down our souls / learning that love will soon be the sign / promise of new days, and a new day will be born.” “Through bloodshot eyes / I struggle to see the truth,” Griffith sings through the pulsating rhythm of “We Feel the Songs.” Most of the songs follow this path: melancholy, but with a healthy dose of hope thrown in so it doesn’t sound whiny. Add to this the themes of loss, regret, death and soul-searching, all the while pushing forward and vowing to never give up. Gatorade would be proud.

The downside is that the songs are pretty formulaic and can sometimes have you thinking the album is one long song (maybe that’s why they tie together so well…). McTernan would have done well to find the ground in between quiet and loud–you can throw your fist in the air to a huge chorus after a lulling verse only so many times. Some varied guitar sounds and more diverse vocal melodies would help to make each track stand out from the other. Griffith also needs to learn when not to sing; a little instrumental space could do wonders on certain songs.

That said, it’s a strong album, especially for a debut. Get your fist ready.

(Atlantic Records)

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