When I first sat down to write this review for Luna Keller’s new summer single “Packing My Bags,” I couldn’t really make up my mind whether or not Keller reminds me more of Dean Ween or Bob Dylan. Sure, she has all of the giddy eccentricity of Ween, along with his stylishly creative guitar licks, but there’s a distinctive hostility in her voice that is a lot like Dylan’s trademark irreverent rebelliousness. But then I came to the right conclusion; Keller takes a little bit from both and adds a uniquely 21st-century urban spin to this postmodern variety of indie stylized folk rock, and it’s better than anything I could have asked for as a music fan going into this summer.
Luna Keller is my favorite singer/songwriter right now, and it isn’t just because we share the same set of quirky influences and taste in music. “Packing My Bags” is an excellent example of how fluid a composer Keller is, both lyrically and musically, and it adequately demonstrates her playful side without getting too far off the rails into the avant-garde pop territory (although to be quite honest, I don’t think I would have minded either way). There’s nothing campy or cartoonish in her retrospectives that make listeners feel like her consoling attitude is fake or generated to create some makeshift connection between her and her audience. It’s just organic, old-fashioned roots music with all of the rustic imagery removed from the formula. Is it possible to make anti-ramshackle folk in 2018? I think she kind of proves that it is here, in this song.
Taking an artist out of obscurity and pushing them towards the primetime is what this business is built on; getting the talent out of the shadows and onto your turntables. But Luna Keller is playing it smart as to how she goes about getting to the top. She isn’t playing along with any marketing gimmicks or selling the hot product of the moment. Instead, she’s cultivating a small, dedicated following that will steadily buffer her entrance into the mainstream while maintaining her strong sense of artistic ethics, and that’s really the best way to do it. This way she isn’t running a risk of losing her identity before she even gets a chance to introduce the larger world to it and her long-term goals will have an insurance created from avoiding the pressures of big record labels and their soulless A&R departments.
“Packing My Bags” is exactly the kind of fun, angular indie rock that we need right now to get summer 2018 swinging into full gear, and ironically it suits the present atmosphere of pop music perfectly. Whether or not the late 2010s folk revival is going to give way to a new watershed moment for pop in the next few years is yet to be seen, but we can all agree that artists like Luna Keller is still doing an excellent job of setting the stage for whatever the next generation of artists are going to bring to the table.
That Summer, Vol. 1: open.spotify.com/album/2BuQkIZjet7yHSU7cGroKj