CD Review-Tyson Ballew-Moa In Repose

Having recently returned from living in Missoula, MT, Tyson Ballew has released a new full EP of “solo” songs – though they’re slightly more fleshed-out than the label ‘solo’ would suggest, with acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, and some keys.

In reference to the sound of the 90’s, and the better music circles of the time, Ballew at times is reminiscent of David Bazan and Conor Oberst, but less vulnerable or whiny. The vocal elements of the album are very consistent, at times to a fault. The music has a lot of those elements too, so this isn’t a cheap comparison. He plays big, open chords, picks little lead lines, and even lays down a big synth backing wash. When he’s firing on all cylinders, the songs hit hard and have hooks and sound good and all of that stuff that good songs do. And it sounds good, like a professional recording but without big bass or drums. I would really like to hear the songs with those instruments and sounds present. The standout track for me is track three, “The Skeptic,” where it all seems to come together with a strong melody and lyrics without forced rhyme or imagery.

Unfortunately, there’s a ceiling that Ballew pushes himself up against and when he tries to come down in volume, tempo, or musical intensity, it sounds throttled rather than releasing any built tension. The album also lacks any percussion, which is missing in the overall feel of the album.

MOA in Repose is an incomplete album containing very good songs. I don’t know why there aren’t any drums on the album and I really wish there were, as the songs are fairly conventional and could benefit from either drums or something novel to replace what they conventionally accomplish. It is impressive for what it is but the modest stylistic ambitions also limit the dynamic range and impact of the music.