The first few seconds of any album are crucial when setting the stage for the listening experience. They present an opportunity to sit the listener firmly in their seat, as if to explain “this is where you’re going to live for the next 32 minutes.”
As an acoustic guitar slinks across my sonic palette, it feels as if each chord is being strummed above an electrified glockenspiel; its tinny qualities reverberating beneath. Suddenly, the full controlled fuzz tone of a “we’re having a good time” electric guitar pierces the airwaves and the tapping of a crash cymbal opens the door while the rest of the kit steps in to join.
The stage is set and I feel as if I can almost hear the rolling tape of a cassette, whose player rests between two leather seats, and underneath an open roof as the vehicle it’s housed in hurdles down a sunsetted county road, moving no faster than 60 kilometres an hour.
I didn’t grow up in the 70s, but after two seconds of listening to Moondoggy’s intro track Don’t Let Me Go I wish I had. That is, until I hear Jakob Matanowitsch’s vocals, flowing through what sounds like a driven harmonica mic, and I’m glad I’m living in the present.
Currently based in Toronto, Moondoggy formed while the members attended high school in Collingwood, ON. Jakob Matanowitsch (vocals), Jonathan “Jonny” Contini (lead guitar) and Nick Wyant (bass) formed the band in 2018 and have since gained the respective talents of Ben Matanowitsch on the saxophone and Victor Carrillo on drums. In 2021 the band released their vibe-heavy self titled EP Moondoggy, showcasing their ability to craft well-oiled, original tunes with spacey production and certified vulnerable indie flair.
Today, the band presents their debut LP Mad and Noisy, a collection of ten songs that take you for a ride through the depths of social commentary, undeniable emotions and what it means to craft an original modern sound. In What a Shame, emoting through personal admissions like “my work is not my worth,” and singing “we’ve been watching real closely, productivity is not what we’re hoping,” from the perspective of a disgruntled supervisor; the band dances on the line between questioning the status quo and getting preachy with an awareness and precision.
Matanowitsch’s melodies are carried by his unique timbre with an effortless composure that places trust both in his own voice and the roots from which the band’s sound has grown. They sound as if they know they have something great, without flaunting it. When it comes to horns and indie rock, things can go one of two ways: they can add an irreplaceable tonality and feel to the music, or they can make you feel like you’re at a pizza party. Moondoggy accomplishes the former with grace as Ben Matanowitsch’s abilities as a saxophonist bring a level of textural and melodic depth to the band’s presence.
Evident in Ramona: Wyant’s bass feel, Contini’s ability to rock back and forth between moments in the spotlight and tasteful structural support, and Carrillo’s measured capacity to fill only the space that needs filling while matching the energy of the horns; this band has developed a professional level of cohesion in a relatively short amount of time.
It’s young bands like Moondoggy, whose honest approach to song writing feels anything but contrived and reminds me of trend-setting heavy hitters in the indie movement. From instrumental arrangements to clever irony-doused lyrics, the band’s sound is its own. Think Peach Pit went for a morning coffee in Cage the Elephant’s café, before Morphine showed up and insisted on taking everyone surfing.
If this is Moondoggy in its first few years of existence, I can only imagine the future they have ahead of themselves. This band deserves your attention. Check out their first full length album Mad and Noisy as soon as you have a chance.