As a guitarist for the San Francisco garage-rock band The Fresh & Onlys, Wymond Miles’ primary job is to take his mates’ catchy, lightly psychedelic songs and give them a more epic scope, whether that be via clean western twang or wall-shaking rattle. As a solo artist, Miles applies those same techniques to a sort of DIY version of the spacey, darkly textured post-punk once practiced by Echo & The Bunnymen, Scott Walker, and the Bay area’s own Translator. Miles follows up his arty, occasionally abstract debut EP Earth Has Doors with the full-length Under The Pale Moon, which is more pop-minded. The album shares some similarities with the recent work of fellow lo-fi, retro-’80s-informed Californian Ariel Pink, but Miles’ songs are more classically structured, packaging his personal strife as world-weary cabaret, wrapped in thick swaths of fuzzy synthesizers and reverberating guitar.
The album cover reveals some of where Miles is coming from, stylistically. The fuzzy photo of ascending birds looks like something that would’ve adorned a 4AD or early Cure record, while the lettering and layout resembles a sophisticated ’50s pop or jazz record. The connection between those genres? A kind of worldly romanticism: an understanding that life is grimly unfair, yet to be savored. That sentiment is evident in Under The Pale Moon’s David Bowie-esque opener “Strange Desire,” in the stately “Singing The Ending,” and in the stormy “Run Like The Hunted,” all of which explore desperation and mortality, while emphasizing the word “we” as a way of acknowledging that no one goes through any of this alone. And later in the record, with the gorgeously woozy “Youth’s Lonely Wilderness,” the cooing “You And I Are Of The Night,” and the sweetly blooming “Lazarus Rising,” Miles offers some reasons to persevere—if only to enjoy the comfort of clever, heartfelt pop music.