Sunset Moth

Live review from Girls with Guitars #10


Snow Boots
Bad One For a Friend
You won’t be down forever
Nothing Like Ours

主唱極有舞台魅力,隨意的碎語、即興卻成熟的結他彈奏、偶爾遊走,遊刃有餘得簡直把舞台當成了自己家裡的廚房。開首的Paperwork是難以形容的獨特,抒發了長大後的迷惘、無奈和接受,卻又童年味濃、毫不頹廢。這種特別的曲風既有Fleetwood mac又有4 Non Blondes的影子。黑色幽默感極強的主唱將最後Nothing Like Ours的二人蝸居世界感覺透過音樂描繪出來,intro和outro的旋律令人記憶猶新。但除此之外,其他的幾首卻未能好好展現這種極具特色的魅力,未有太大驚喜之處,甚至有點過於混亂。
– 傑仔

I had never seen Sunset Moth before but from audience response, it seems that they’ve been a fan favourite for a while. Sunset Moth is the child of singer-songwriter Jules O’Brien who has been performing at the underground now for over half a decade, including at several Girls With Guitars shows, but mostly as a solo act.

Friday’s performance began with a jam which led into their first song Paperwork. Having never seen or hear them before, the opening jam was an unexpectedly musical move normally reserved for experienced jazz artists. With my interest piqued, they went directly into Snow Boots, an old song that O’Brien used to perform solo. It was a reflective performance; expansive and beautifully harmonic in its writing, O’Brien’s strong compositional techniques allows seamless transition between sections of contrasting genres and moods throughout Snow Boots and, by extension, the whole set which included ballads, ska and briefly heavy rock.

What set Sunset Moth out from other bands though, is that they aren’t just good at performing or writing – they’re amazing at both. In Snow Boots we really got to see O’Brien’s background as a solo performer. Close to crooning, she told and acted out the song’s story, reaching out her hand to ‘grab the prize’, as the lyrics went. In Bad One For a Friend, the band’s performance style changed again becoming more active as the song’s ska beat started. Following in suit, O’Brien’s vocals became a now in-vogue half-sung-half-rapped style of singing adding to the song’s rhythmic backing.

The only moment in the performance I found disappointing was during their final song Nothing Like Ours which was a swinging upbeat song in the style of 60s songs like ‘Oh Darling’ and ‘Unchained Melody’. Whilst O’Brien is an astounding guitarist, she’s not the best pianist and the difficulty of playing a fast 6/8 riff (don’t worry, I know how difficult it is, I’ve tried many times to no avail) actually slowed down the song a bit. It’s not like Sunset Moth doesn’t have a pianist and maybe this was just one of those times where swapping instruments wasn’t the best idea.

Like other singer-songwriters led bands, it’s clear who and what is in charge in Sunset Moth. Without any creative constraints, the independent artist can write about any feeling, compose music of any genre and then have their music improved by collaborating with her fellow bandmates. The result was a performance without a dull moment; a really special set of intelligent, creative music that’s not pretentious at all in its writing of performance. O’Brien’s variety of compositional and performance styles is exactly the sort of musicality we need in pop music.
– Cyril Ma


Live review from 15th Anniversary Party

1. Chopsick
2. Bad One For A Friend
3. Nothing Like Ours
4. You Won’t Be Down Forever
5. Snow Boots

Where’s Jules O’Brien been all my life? This girl is a musical force of nature. Not that you’d necessarily know it from her appearance, although she cuts an impressive figure, tall, attractive and radiating confidence.

Initially though, when the talented singer-songwriter and her band Sunset Moth go into first track “Chopsick” I found myself initially dismissing the quiet, quirky jazzy feel as slightly underwhelming. How wrong I was, dear reader! While their sound does draw on elements of jazz, it’s also informed by folk, rock, indie and pop to provide an irresistibly dynamic and original sound, underpinned by Jules’ compelling vocal.

Second track “Bad One For A Friend” kicks off with a 2/4 arrhythmically bop before heading into a driving chorus with a punchy No Doubt vibe, and confirms the quality of the writing and playing. “This is a new one, it’s about living in Hong Kong” Jules laughs, introducing third track “Nothing Like Ours” on which she switches from her well-worn acoustic guitar to keyboards. With a repeating chordal motif, it’s light and ethereal, before rocking out, finally returning to the intro’s plaintive piano melody to end. Divine.

Track 4 ”You Won’t Be Down Forever” has an extended, jazzy intro, light and delicate which echoes The Cranberries in parts before by turns becoming edgy, understated, vibey, impassioned and melodic – definitely a stand-out for me. Jules conducts the band while shaking her hair around becomingly as the epic track falls away to nothing.

Final track “Snow Boots“ is again forceful, rhythmical and melodic, tight and loose simultaneously, hanging together really well and bringing a brilliant set to a great conclusion. And of course it’s not all about Jules. The band – Noah, Godfrey, Joseph and Alex – are pretty amazing, demonstrating their virtuosity as each takes a mini-solo turn during the closer.

With influences ranging from PJ Harvey to Kate Bush, this set really grew on me, as did Jules’ sweet, clear voice, I found myself occasionally hoping she would cut loose and give it a bit more, Janis Joplin bluesy style, a persona that naturally seems to lend itself to her, and I couldn’t hear many of the lyrics, which was a shame, but otherwise a triumphant start to the evening and a high bar set.
– Dan Creffield

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