Unlike most singer/songwriters who pursue a pensive muse, Paul Banks doesn’t fancy himself as another Jeff Buckley/Nick Drake disciple. While his tones occasionally betray a hint of melancholia, there’s enough spark in his melodies to illuminate an entire room. Consequently, Banks’ latest project, P.T. Banks, finds him exuding a cheery optimism via songs that are sedate and yet still seductive, sturdy and yet surreal. The aptly titled Moonlight Is Sunlight marks Banks’ evolution from his eponymous outfit , Paul Banks & the Carousels, but it retains its core members in bassist/multi-instrumentalist Christopher Cox and percussionist Matthew Shepherd, offering the impression that the evolution is mainly a musical one and not a desire to abandon his former colleagues entirety.
That said, Banks and company get some superb assists from Tosca String Quartet (David Byrne), David Ramirez, and members of Moby, Hard Proof Afrobeat, and Okkervil River, giving the album an orchestrated feel that shimmers and sways — mostly buoyant, often effusive, but rarely given to all out exhilaration. With titles that suggest basic precepts, songs such as “Death,” “Hitchhiker” and “No Country For Me” possess a dreamlike quality that’s elusive at times, but still alluring nevertheless. Banks takes full advantage of the added players, creating a richly woven instrumental tapestry blanketed by rich, robust arrangements that never sound overly fastidious or unnecessarily overblown. That allows the songs to shine from their core, be it the upbeat and effusive “Emily (Knot My Nets)” or the soothing love song, “West Was Won.” It’s that remarkable dichotomy that’s at the essence of P.T. Banks’ endeavors, an element that allows for a signature sound that retains its joyful appeal, even in the most sedate of circumstances.
Granted, Moonlight In Sunlight is not the type of effort that’s likely to catch on immediately. While its core approach leans more towards pop in particular, it’s far more thoughtful and considered than your average disposable ditty, and it comes across as far more resilient as well. Still, if the band’s able to persevere, this may mark the beginning of more exceptional efforts yet to come. Based on what’s heard here, their progress will be well worth watching.