There’s a comforting sense of familiarity in Tim Moxam’s music, like the feeling of a soft summer breeze after the passing of a cold, grey winter. It’s his soulful voice that floats over twangy acoustic guitar; his vivid storytelling of lost love; his breezy, warm atmospheric tones that swell and crash.
Yet when it comes to conjuring Moxam’s predecessors, contemporaries and influences – no one comes to mind. He exists in a world that deftly explores the space between country-rock and folk, with a talent for carving out memorable melodies in unlikely places. On his debut LP, Soft Summer, Moxam shows he’s a singer-songwriter wholly of his own.
At its core, Soft Summer is a collection of deeply personal songs, organized like a sonic memoir. Many of the songs have lived with the Toronto-based Moxam for years, lyrics being re-worked and re-written in countless journals, while others were birthed in the final months before recording. Some were from the era before his first EP, Blue Son, and some were even penned in the backseat of the van as he toured with his former band, the beloved indie rock group, Great Bloomers.
Despite their disparate origins, the songs fit together with fluidity and ease. This is partially thanks to Moxam’s distinctive point of view, and otherwise to the collaborative recording process.
For the album, Moxam recruited a who’s who in Toronto’s music scene: former bandmates, Adrian Cook (guitar) and Tony McKnight (bass) of Great Bloomers, Joshua Van Tassel (drums) of Great Lake Swimmers, and Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s Christopher Weatherstone (saxophone.) The songstresses Ivy Mairi (The Weather Station, Bruce Peninsula) and Raffa Weyman (RALPH and formerly Queen of the Fleet) provided accompanying vocals on several tracks.
Once settled into Union Sound Co. Studios in Toronto, everything was recorded live off the floor – the vocals, acoustic guitar, bass and drums – and often in one take. Moxam hints that this approach means slight pitch problems, vocal glitches and other idiosyncrasies are out in the open, but it’s a sacrifice he was willing to make for an organic sound. “When you start to really dissect things and make everything perfect,” Moxam says, “you end up with a manufactured product. You have something that’s inauthentic. I gravitate towards a more natural sound.”
The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Chris Stringer, who has worked with Timber Timbre, Ohbijou, The Wooden Sky and Gentlemen Reg, among countless others.
The single “Bones” is a languid and emotive love song, narrated over an intricate guitar line that weaves between Moxam, Mairi and Weyman’s joint vocals. “Meant To Be” is densely layered with wistful guitars and pedal steel, culminating in beautiful melodic peaks. The title-track Soft Summer is a languid summer anthem; Honey from the Hive is a slow-burner, complete with a stinging saxophone interlude, and sung from the perspective of an arrogant lover.
Soft Summer is at turns passionate and tender, sorrowful and solemn, uplifting and rollicking. It’s a look inside Moxam’s own life, encrypted in metaphors and melodies.