Perhapst: 'Harbour'

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Album art for Perhapst's self-titled debut. hide caption

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Up to this point, musician John Moen has been best known for his stints as drummer in several prolific groups. Formerly backing Elliott Smith, then Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Moen currently serves as drummer for Portland, Oregon's The Decemberists. But he recently took the spotlight for himself with his new side project, the band Perhapst.

Actually, Perhapst seems more like a one-man-show than a proper band. Not only did Moen write all the songs on Perhapst's self-titled debut, he also contributes the vocals and plays many of the instruments himself, with the notable exception of a guest spot by Stephen Malkmus on guitar.

Although Moen's past work with The Decemberists has included sea shanties and moody historical landscapes, he settles on a more straightforward pop approach to the music on Perhapst. At times, songs such as "Incense Cone," with its mellow bass and doo-wop chorus, are colored by 1960s influences. The vocals on this particular track are melodic and pleasant, but Perhapst sometimes suffers from Moen's insistence on playing with too many vocal styles. On "Maryanne," for example, he pushes his voice to shrill heights, a la Frankie Valli but without the ability to handle a proper falsetto.

Still, there are glimmers of sheer beauty on the album, like the feel-good, head-bopping "Harbour," and the closing track, "Aren't You Glowing." On the latter, Moen sings well within his vocal range and wraps up the sometimes disjointed Perhapst on a promising note.

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