Noon isn’t much for sarcasm; the most you’ll get from him on Have a Spirit Filled is a melancholy wink on closer “Feel No Dread.” No, his game is full-force sincerity and sweetness, a brotherly arm over your shoulder and gentle, whispered conversation through the bad-trip nightmare of life. Opener “Blue” lays it out quite nicely, welcoming you into the embrace of his world with a tumbling, fingerpicked motif that you’ll swear up and down you’ve heard somewhere else. “Don't you know that I pity you,” he sings, placidly staring through you with double-tracked vocals, “with all your little bells and whistles singing two different tunes.” His ability to create secondhand nostalgia, drawing you to a perfect summer afternoon for two with little more than airy slide guitar and his voice, is truly remarkable. “Blue” is more than vague familiarity. It’s the sound of Elan Noon picking the locks on a long-buried trove of recollection.
The acoustic tracks follow a similar thread, ambling down memory lane with a disaffected smile plastered on to hide the anxious sentiment bubbling underneath. “Vexed” is particularly affecting, with the pillow-soft hum of melodica as background to lyrics about simultaneously escaping and drowning in insincerity to the point of questioning your own experience, and “Unwise” brings in some Fleetwoods-style group harmonies for a heavenly interlude. These and “Grim Reaper” don’t quite reach the lofty heights of “Blue,” but they’re a fascinating exhibition for Elan Noon’s pensive melodic craftsmanship.
Of the two tracks that flex a rhythm section, collaboration piece “False Idols” is the clear winner. Its meandering electric piano melody flies all over the map, mirroring vocalist Suz’s incisive bourgeoisie mockery. “It's about / To be a bright shiny day / In the palm of your hand / Lest your data plan be withheld,” hits too close to home, but that kind of cutting sincerity, played out over a neck-snapping beat, is essential to Have a Spirit Filled’s surprising replay value. “Could It Be?,” while a convincing piece of kaleidoscopic '60s pop songwriting, doesn’t quite separate itself in the same way, coming off as too flimsy. Pleasant, but lacking the honest weight necessary to keep Noon’s buoyant visions grounded.
As a snapshot of a songwriter, Have a Spirit Filled doesn’t quite suggest a breakthrough into unknown territory. But it’s absurdly fun listening to Elan Noon poring over well-worn trails, investigating his own experience through a foggy pair of rose-tinted glasses, and well worth a spin or five.