With Orange Moon, Alexis Marceaux takes an ambitious leap as a solo artist: stepping out of the prosaic, singer-songwriter nest of her capable 2009 debut, Dandelion, into the daring, cinematic skies of indie folk. The album, which she dedicates to the memory of a friend lost to cancer, is a lush, emotionally charged, suite with a distinct New Orleans imprint.
“So strong, like the nightlife, like the moonlight, like the moon, rise, so bright,” she cries in opener “Leila and the Orange Moon,” as the vulnerable, string-swathed lament is swept up into an arresting, brass band vigil. Marceaux and bandmate Sam Craft (Glasgow) share the disc’s production duties, which involve wrangling over two-dozen New Orleans-based musicians, including Susan Cowsill, Big Sam, the New Orleans Bingo! Show’s Clint Maedgen, and indie rockers Sun Hotel.
Credit engineer Rick G. Nelson’s (The Polyphonic Spree) savvy mixes for shading Orange Moon’s intricate layers, especially on the wistful “Stars” and the quizzical “Brains.” Credit Marceaux and Craft for clinging to their strengths without caving to their eccentricities. Marceaux’s imaginative lyrics and bewitching personality color the album’s brightest moments, so right when the lounging bossa-pop of “Only One Basket” gets a bit too cozy she quips, “Don’t get all Carole King on me!” On the snarky closer, “Wishing Well,” a condemnation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill told from the perspective of a bird, she chirps atop a rising, Arcade Fire-esque chorus, “The wind is at my back,” only to snicker, “and you suckers will be lucky if I ever come back.” If Orange Moon is a sign of what’s on the horizon, there’s no telling how far this adventurous young songbird will fly.