Moon Duo have a very specific sound, one that bears a resemblance to the psychedelia of Smoking Acid era Brian Jonestown Massacre and especially to Ripley Johnson’s other project Wooden Shjips. Wooden Shjips has made a name for themselves playing thick psychedelic music and Ripley Johnson does not stray far from that sound with Moon Duo. On Circles Moon Duo keeps everything simple by locking into a groove and riding it out for the entirety of a song. The vocals are laden with reverb and echo and help to bring about the psychedelic properties of the record.
Standout tracks like album opener “Sleepwalker” or the title track “Circles” showcase the poppy side of Moon Duo and actually end up being the strongest tracks of the album. “Sleepwalker” begins with a strong groove and locks into it right away, and then the vocals come in and propel the song to another level. When the chorus comes in and Sanae Yamada adds some backup vocals the song takes on much stronger persona and evokes much more emotion.
Moon Duo should seriously consider employing this vocal style more often, because on this album it resulted in the strongest vocal melody and consequently the strongest song of the album. Another album highlight is the title track “Circles” which has the best instrumentation of the album with its awesome guitar solos. It also possesses one of the best vocal melodies of the album. The vocal melodies are vital to the songs on this album, because the instrumentation is so simple and repetitious that the vocal melodies bring a bit more life to these tracks.
Circles is a pretty good LP from San Francisco’s Moon Duo, but it is not the most accessible album. The repetition and the gritty production make this an album mostly for those that are interested in lo-fi psychedelic music. That being said, Moon Duo are pretty great at working with their particular sound. With this album they were able to strengthen their vocal melodies and make an all-around more enjoyable record than they have in the past.