Big bark 

The Moondoggies make Northwest-style magic

When the Moondoggies sing about love it's about missing someone in the chill of a Northwest winter. The chorus of "oohs" emanate like frost collecting around forests of whistling pines. We think of regional writers—Richard Hugo, Flannery O'Conner—capturing a sense of place, but if there's a current band representing this corner of the country in its every note and lyric, it's the Moondoggies. And that place-based mood the musicians create is vast and luscious.

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I saw the Moondoggies open for Blitzen Trapper a few years ago. I didn't know their music—just saw them as one more group of young, bearded lumberjack hipsters. But they blew me away with the atmosphere they created in the dingy Palace Lounge. Now, listening to the band's new album, Adios I'm a Ghost, I find myself stupid-in-love with the dark and divine songs.

There's a tinge of the familiar. You can hear in "Midnight Owl" something like a Roy Orbison song. In a few others, there's the bone-dry echo of Bruce Springsteen. "A Lot to Give" gets down with some 1960s blues and psychedelia—but the album never falters or spins out from taking a few different turns.

Frontman Kevin Murphy delivers stories that aren't too expository and leave you with complex characters—whether prideful, reckless, glowing or evil—floating in your head. The songs are written with a precision that doesn't undercut the authentic depth of the album—not rehearsed but sharpened to their most effective point. I don't often call something brilliant, but the writing on this is.

The Moondoggies plays Stage 112 Fri., Aug. 30, with Pickwick and Sick Kids XOXO. Doors open at 9 PM. $14/$12 advance at Rockin Rudy's, Ear Candy Music and

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