New Releases Reviews

Review: Flying Raccoon Suit’s ‘Moonflower’

The Mississippi ska band are back with their incredibly strong new album which celebrates their influences and showcases musical depth.

Flying Raccoon Suit, have released their follow up to 2021’s incredibly beloved ‘Afterglow’ and it has immediately joined the conversation for the ska album of the year.

Moonflower‘ is filled with a broad range of influences across the spectrum from heavy metal to jazz; southern brass to punk; indie and pop. Every song explores and pushes the boundaries of ska, but in a way that feels polished and never experimental for the sake of experimenting.

While every track feels unique, there are themes that run through, that are distinct and uniquely identifiable as Flying Raccoon Suit. 

Lyrically, the album deals with mental health in a very real way. ‘Moonflower‘ feels like a journal- tracking personal growth, dealing with trauma and moving forward in life with attempts at self care. What is particularly powerful with this album is that we are constantly reminded that improvement is not linear. Every song that deals with mental health also accepts struggle and failure in that growth. The whole album feels real, relatable, and is consistently set over incredible instrumentation.

The opener is a New Orleans jazz-styled track- ‘Vidalia‘- that begins with a long, slow, instrumental portion before Jessica Jeansonne comes in with beautiful vocals. I’m blown away with how sultry and powerful this track is, and the lyrics tell me what to expect for the album as it starts:

We’re waiting on ourselves to bloom/And we’re finding that there’s no room/But these insecurities will rot“.

The musical tone shifts as the next song- ‘Longshot’- counts in on the drums and we are welcomed with ska horns and a much faster tempo. The lead-in vocals are Andrew Heaton as the band introduces us to some of the diversity in vocals that FRS offers. The ska riffs in this song are obvious earworms, and while Jeansonne does sing the majority of the vocals in this track, the two play off of each other with masterful effect. 

After this we are treated to two of the singles the band promoted in pre-release with ‘Swan Song‘ and ‘Eat The World‘. The former is a rare ska song that manages to invoke sorrow and longing through the music while Jeansonne’s vocals help express loss and mourning with a pain that feels as genuine in the recording as when the pen was on paper writing the song.

Meanwhile, ‘Eat The World‘ introduces what is best described as “surf- ska”. The song intros with a rhythm that the audience will no doubt be clapping out when it’s played in concert. You can also hear the distortions of a theremin in the intro and outro, to give the track its own unique sound.

The middle of the album somehow steps it up a few more notches as the best two ska-punk songs on the album appear-‘Hurricane‘ and ‘Take this with You‘. Neither one has the earworm hook and easily repeated choruses, but instead have great lyrics, vocals, and complex instrumentation.

Hurricane‘ in particular does a lot of narrative storytelling with the music instead of the vocals that makes it one of my favourite ska songs of all time, already!

Take This With You‘ ends with some aggressive vocals that border on hardcore and the music keeps up appropriately, teasing us for later in the album.

Witch’s Streak‘ is one of the more unique songs the band offer on this release and is a quick favourite. It’s slow, and complex and, while not ska, it fits in perfectly with the rest of ‘Moonflower‘ Everything about this song appeals to me for reasons I can’t explain- but it’s definitely cast its spell on me. Full of beautiful harmonies it builds tension slowly and subtly throughout the song and by the end- when the tension is heaviest- you want to sing along as lyrics full of self doubt and insecurity beg the question “why don’t you speak for yourself” before the music masterfully resolves the tension.

But the tension is only temporarily relieved as we move into what may be the best ska-core song you’ll hear. ‘Long in the Tooth‘ -whilst not necessarily the strongest track- is definitely the one you will remember. Hard core, heavy metal, and ska masterfully fused in a way I have never imagined. I listen to a lot of ska-core and everything about this track is on another level. Drummer Derek Kerley gives his chops at vocals here and takes it up several levels, all while delivering the blast beats to catch the ear of any metal head.

The album doesn’t slow down as the second half of the album continues to mix modern ska punk, amazing earworms, beautiful vocals and incredible songwriting. The third, and most up-tempo pre-release single, ‘Sunflower‘ along with catchy songs like ‘Runaway‘ and ‘Pinwheel‘ are on the back half  with the latter having my favourite chorus on the entire album.

However, the hidden gem on the back half is the final song- ‘Dyad‘. It seems to intentionally mirror the first half by having a slower, non-ska song as the final track, bookending the album with less traditional, more melodic, and unique tracks. Where ‘Vidalia‘ featured the long instrumental intro to the album, ‘Dyad‘ has the strongest vocal performance, leaving the listener longing for more.

But alas, there is no more as that’s the album closer. With their third album, Flying Raccoon Suit have created something special- complex, mature and musically vast, this is going to top many album of the year polls for discerning ska fans. Make sure you give it a listen!

‘Moonflower’ was released on 3rd November via Bad Time Records.

1. Vidalia
2. Longshot
3. Swan Song
4. Eat The World
5. Hurricane
6. Take This With You
7. Witch’s Streak
8. Long In The Tooth
9. Pinwheel
10. Axe To Grind
11. Run Away
12. Sunflower
13. DYAD

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