Earning comparisons to Elliott Smith and the Tallest Man on Earth, Todd Warner Moore is a songwriter who harnesses delicate sensibilities and a fundamentalist approach to his art. His unique voice, compositions, and words carry an air of lived experience and years of labouring away at the craft, making him stand out in a crowded field.
Spark begins with the fittingly-titled ‘Prologue’ which is a short piece of spoken word by Warner Moore, a kind of thematic centre-ground for the album to come. The message is a timeless one about death and rebirth with the undercurrent of unbreakable optimism, and the idea is cemented further by the title track that follows.
Dramatic, driving, and powerful, ‘Spark’ opens the album on a serious high. It’s a duet performed with a serene female counterpart, supported by waltzy guitars and hand-based percussion ramping up the energy.
Keeping up the ¾ time signature trend, ‘Gift’ follows and is equal parts sincere and melancholic. Warner Moore has a talent for matching the timbre of his voice to the words he chooses, creating a complete and soulful picture in each piece.
‘Noodles’, on the other hand, is difficult to stomach. The track is reminiscent of ageing legends when they release so-so albums full of random filler with lazy and even bizarre lyrics – Bob Dylan’s ‘2×2’ as a point in case. With Warner Moore, we’re experiencing an indie folk rundown of a noodle recipe, as per the title.
Typically, the black sheep on an album has some sort of attractive mutant characteristic that leaves room for the other features of the tune to meander into the absurd. ‘They’re Red Hot’ by the Chilis on Blood Sugar Sex Magik being a good example, but the same can’t be said for ‘Noodles’.
Instrumentation-wise, there’s an array of supporting voices on offer throughout Spark. The string arrangements that guide several tunes like ‘Already There’, ‘Drift Awake’, and ‘Gift’ carry the same rustic, romantic feel as some tunes on Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left. Many other tracks show a willingness to experiment without compromising the song’s integrity.
Final highlights include, ‘In the Water’ – a showcase in Warner Moore’s sense of harmony and timing – and ‘Already There’. The latter melds fingerpicked guitars and lullaby chords with the breathy vocals of Elliott Smith.
Anyone taken by the modern school of folk/indie singer-songwriters is bound to feel at home with Todd Warner Moore. Spark is a clean-cut production that wears its heart on its sleeve, and despite the occasional hiccup, it’s a sure-fire success.