Album Review: Wrote In Gold by Moosetrap
“Please be patient with me, Lord / Lord, please be patient with me.”
The first seconds of the new decade saw the release of the debut full-length album from Americana/Roots-rock outfit, Moosetrap. Patience is exactly what Moosetrap fans exercised during the four years between the band’s debut EP release (Disco Lovers) and the first of this New Year. There were allusions to the existence of the album, there were loose promises, there were live shows sprinkled with unfamiliar tunes. Show-by-show, year-by-year, the anticipation grew, and the wait went on.
But “long-awaited” usually means you’ve been doing something very right. Moosetrap writes songs very right. If 2016’s Disco Lovers didn’t fully establish this, then Wrote In Gold drives the point home. Tracks like “Montezuma” and “Dead Poet” sound like folk-rock standards. If the line “Oh my God, oh when I die / Won’t you lay me in the halls of Montezuma” isn’t a classic lyric, then maybe there’s no such thing as a classic lyric. If great albums are made by great songs, then Wrote In Gold is, without question, a great album.
But great albums aren’t made by great songs. If they started and ended with songwriting, then Daniel Blanchard and Chip Hale could’ve released a few acoustic voice memos on Soundcloud and called it a day. Moosetrap isn’t afraid of production, and it shows in the group’s willingness to experiment and even rely on effects and studio wizardry to achieve results. It’s difficult to imagine songs like “Who’s Gonna Miss You (When I’m Gone)” and “Cleveland” as ever having existed as solely acoustic guitar and vocal. The former’s modulated bass intro and the latter’s heavily Wilco-reminiscent middle section contribute largely to the success of not just the songs, but the album as a whole. Modernity, from the instrument tones to the rhythm arrangements, defines the sound of this record.
But at its heart, Wrote In Gold is a country album. In the classic sense. The lyrics are about desire — wanting to go, wanting to have back, wanting more and struggling to define what “more” is. Acoustic guitars drive the songs, while the electric guitar, handled primarily by Nate and Eli Hubbard, serves as the primary source of memorable instrumental moments. David Pruitt’s drum parts are straightforward and song serving. There’s plenty for country music purists to latch onto with this record, case-in-point being “Natural Disaster,” where, verse-by-verse, the southern accents thicken.
Wrote In Gold should go down as one of the great debut albums, and like all debuts, it leaves its creators room to grow, experiment, and improve. The second half of the record struggles ever-so-slightly to follow the sheer impact of the first half, with the sequence from “Westward, Onward” to “Last Romantic” representing twenty-two minutes and twenty-six seconds of songwriting being about as good as it gets. Regardless, Wrote In Gold, from start to finish, is a victory from the initial stage of songwriting to the band’s arrangements and studio production. The listening experience is not unlike that of classic records like Rumours and Exile On Main St., where the songwriting and sound perfectly capture a period and aesthetic. Maybe Moosetrap is here to remind us that timeless art is worth the patience, but hopefully, whatever they do next is just around the corner.