Sometimes it can be as simple as a guitar and a voice. Edmonton native Marlaena Moore proves just that. Her 2014 debut record, Beginner shows the versatility and depth that can come with her enrapturing indie-folk music. But Moore’s latest release, Live at Wunderbar strips down her songs to their bare and beautiful bones.
Recorded at her October 7th set at Wunderbar in Edmonton, the eight song performance rarely falls short of astounding. With only a lone electric guitar as accompaniment, Moore’s voice and lyrics take centre stage.
Plunging directly into her most private thoughts, Moore’s lyrics equip her songs with an emotional directness that demands the attention of anyone listening. With lines like “I can’t stop looking at myself through you / Every single thing I do is all for you” appearing within the first half of the first song on the record, there’s no wonder that not a single sound from the audience can be heard outside of the enveloping applause between songs. Moore’s music captivates.
Marlaena Moore is working in an already established genre, with a slew of similar singer-songwriters gaining significant popularity in recent years: Angel Olsen, Waxahatchee and most recently Julien Baker, among others. However, there is a magic in her music that other artists in the same vein have yet to attain.
Her songs start simply and take off. The only song from her debut record, “Unsafe, Unsure,” begins in a sparse, slow waltz. But as it moves on, her voice climbs upward in volume, register and intensity, until finally, she drops any coherent words in favour of a primal howl that ends the song.
Over the course of seven songs, and nearly forty minutes of her unrestrained vocal outpour, Moore ends the night and the record on a strained note. Her eighth and final song, a cover of The Replacements’ 1984 song “Androgynous,” reminds the listener that this is a live album, and people are not invincible. While Moore attempts to uphold the level of intensity that spans the rest of the record, her voice just doesn’t seem to be able to make it. Her voice crumbles into grating shouts, strained and painful sounding at their peaks, exhausted and broken at their lows. But it’s a live record. It can’t all be perfect.