No matter the genre, a certain type of music will forever be specific to the American experience: road trip music. There’s Willie Nelson’s country-pop crossover “On The Road Again,” quintessential 2010s indie-folk song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (music that Gen Z now refers to as “stomp clap hey”), and the more euphemistic, exuberant “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin. Now with their second collaborative EP Texas Moon, neo-soul crooner Leon Bridges and psychedelic funk-rock trio Khruangbin deliver a different kind of road trip music.
If Nelson’s catalog is perfectly accompanied by a hot, dusty drive through the fast-food-lined interstate highways, Texas Moon is a project ideally listened to on a breezy, isolated, moon-lit drive home on country backroads. Each song is a lullaby of loungey and covertly seductive tones crafted to accompany late-night contemplative trips and, well, other after-hour activities. Texas Moon is the five-track sister project to Bridges and Khruangbin’s unexpected-yet-successful 2020 EP Texas Sun, which earned Khruangbin their top-streamed songs (the title track has over 105 million streams on Spotify alone) and landed at No. 1 on Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart.
The sophomore project is meant to contrast the inaugural collaborative EP in almost every way, down to the colorblocked cover art. Khruangbin even noted how the two releases go hand-in-hand in a statement: “Without joy, there can be no real perspective on sorrow. Without sunlight, all this rain keeps things from growing. How can you have the sun without the moon?” Where Texas Sun was buoyant, cheerful and groovy, Texas Moon is relaxed, wistful and evocative.
Despite Texas Moon’s more shadowy sound, the project similarly pays homage to Bridges and Khruangbin’s Texas home state. It pulls elements from the innovative country and R&B music the Lone Star State is so well known for, masking twangy guitars with Khruangbin’s slick, washed-out grooves on songs like “Chocolate Hills” and “Father Father.” Bridges decidedly name-drops the state on the EP closer “Mariella,” and the resonating chimes heard on “Doris” evoke a wind chime blowing in the breeze on the porch of a Texan farmhouse. Even the video to the more upbeat track “B-Side” draws inspiration from spaghetti Western films and was shot at the J. Lorraine Ghost Town in Austin.
While much of the music is slow-tempoed and leisurely, true to Bridges’ discography, “B-Side” is perhaps the most recognizably Khruangbin song on the EP. The jam is underscored by jaunty guitar riffs, undulating bass, and a lively beat enhanced by Laura Lee’s breathy backup vocals. It’s the perfect companion song to Texas Sun’s “C-Side,” a dreamy track whose watery melodies were a way of showing off the musicians’ playful side.
Not only does Texas Moon show Bridges and Khruangbin in musical harmony, but it also demonstrates that their collaboration has had a distinct impact on each songwriter’s sound. Khruangbin’s third LP Mordechai shortly followed Texas Sun, and while the music had a breadth of sonic inspirations from ‘60s Thai funk to Brazilian tropicália, it also saw the trio taking things in a slightly slower direction, clearly influenced by Bridges’ crooning style. Bridges’ 2021 release Gold Diggers-Sound, on the other hand, included several songs with groove-driven electric guitar and sparser production, making the most of just a few instruments like Khruangbin has shown possible.
Finding a middle ground between Khruangbin and Bridges’ sound, Texas Moon melds soothing soul with hip-swinging funk. As Lee puts it, “It’s not Khruangbin, it’s not Leon, it’s this world we created together.” Throughout five mesmerizing tracks, Texas Moon invites listeners into that special world. It’s a world where time moves at a delicate pace and where that classic American road trip detours through the scenic route.
Carolyn Droke is a Chicago-based music and pop culture writer. You can find her on Twitter @qweencarolean but she’s probably at the local gig.