monoblogue music: “Spark” by Todd Warner Moore

This was one of the hardest reviews I had to write, and it wasn’t really because I lost the original draft of it on my phone. Rather, this was one that I couldn’t categorize because there wasn’t a pigeonhole I could place Moore’s music in to make my life easier. It could be the various influences of place: Moore is a Kansas native who’s traveled the globe and now makes his home in the unlikely musical hotbed of Hong Kong.

He’s also a prolific musician as this was his second full-length solo album of 2018, after June’s “Lapis Lazuli.” But Moore cut his teeth on the college circuit as part of an acoustic group two decades ago, later creating an “expat” band called Tea Thieves when he lived in Hungary. I’ll come back to them in a bit, but first I’ll talk about the issues I had with “Spark.”

Moore’s album is one with some serious storytelling, as I found when I listened to the album on the Bandcamp website, which features the lyrics for most of the songs. As far as that goes, it’s fine, but the problem I ran into was that his actual music is like the frame to a painting; put another way, he has an album which reminds the listener of the background music that plays while the movie’s dialogue continues. If you set aside the brief spoken Prologue and Epilogue you still have 12 songs that are densely filled with lyrics that range from the thought-provoking to the obtuse – oftentimes within the space of two lines. As most of the songs are done without instrumental bridges – thus clocking at no more than four minutes, and often under three – it’s so much so that the music is not even noticed.

I’m going to use an example of both thought-provoking and obtuse here. This song is called Noodles.

A track off Todd Warner Moore’s “Spark” album.

To hear Moore tell it, he says, “Apologies can be difficult.  Sometimes we express them through our actions and not necessarily our words.  When we cook, we transform raw ingredients into something new and wonderful.  In this song, underneath a simple recipe lies an apology with the hope of transformation.” Or maybe it’s just four-dimensional chess. To me this was one of the worst offenders of being trite and obtuse.

I mentioned the band Tea Thieves earlier. Tucked away at the end of “Spark” is a bonus track he did with the band called The Lens. The fact that it’s far and away the best song on the album to me tells me that maybe the band needs to come back together. Sadly, it’s the fourteen tracks of basically bland filler that came before that left the impression. But I’ll link again to Bandcamp if you want to listen (and judge) for yourself.

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