Review: Pity Sex's White Hot Moon

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What I remember most in Pity Sex songs are the moments. For most other music, there’s a riff, or a lyric, or some sort of hook that lingers. On White Hot Moon, it’s all moments: the kick-in after the intro on “Bonhomie”. when the guitars on “What Might Soothe You” drop out for a verse, or reaching fuzz critical mass on “Wappen Beggars”. Those little sequences and climaxes sometimes leave you stunned, just for a second, and reliving them is what keeps me coming back even if the sound itself is narrow and limited.

White Hot Moon uses the same tool set from Pity Sex’s last album, Feast of Love. It’s essentially a re-up. They take a handful of contrasting elements, play them off one another and explore the melodic and emotional effects of their chemistry. There’s distorted, rumbling guitar, as if someone dragged their pickups through gravel, giving way to loosely strummed acoustic guitar. Brennan Greaves’ nearly-monotone, low register singing trades lines with Britty Drake’s breezy, incorporeal vocals. Mix and match these into various combinations and it turns out you can make some magic.

“Pin A Star” is the song that pushes these to the middle of the table, all in. Melodic licks and spry rhythms culminate in cascading vocals underlined by their almost note-less rumbling guitar. It’s the song that feels the best, on an album that bets entirely on the feeling of noise.

Pity Sex has always been good at making deceptively fast-sounding songs, but on White Hot Moon they seem completely dedicated to the trick. Even when they sing about the tangles of love, how a particular crisis in time can hold you in an anxious moment, it has the momentum of a rapid. “Burden You” is overflowing with paralyzing yearning, but it’s a rush in spite of it.

Words are just ornaments to hang on these pretty soundscapes, and so it’s no surprise that some elements pop up over and over: the seasons, the sky, a lover’s lips. They’re classic go-to romantic images. It lacks unique detail, but they come pre-packaged with all the right stirring emotions. The only real deviations from the formula come from the quiet, Drake-fronted songs “Dandelion” and “Plum”. The latter especially works as a piece of flash fiction, which stands in stark contrast to the simplistic, bite-sized stanzas that make up the lyrics sheet everywhere else. “Plum” tells a bonafide story about what it’s like to lose a parent in heartbreaking detail in few words, as good poetry is supposed to do.

It’s a better seasoned Feast of Love, yes. But when the wagon still has wheels, it’s hard to knock them for continuing to ride it. It’s still as smooth as it’s always been. B MINUS