Secret Season – Love is the Only Game in Town

Secret Season – Love is the Only Game in Town 


The Franco/American based duo Secret Season is helmed by vocalist/guitarist Mark Moogalian and vocalist/keyboardist Isabelle Risacher. The duo have worked together since 2005 honing their shared creative experience and debuted with their first full length album, On Our Own, in 2011. While Moogalian handles the bulk of instrumental tasks for their album recordings, no one should think this is a studio-only duo and that they don’t write songs clearly built for stage success. Their latest album Love is the Only Game in Town has a number of more ambitious, challenging pieces, but these are malleable compositions capable of restructuring for live shows and surrounded by far simpler pieces clearly written with an eye towards gigs. It is a twelve track effort that shows a satisfying across the board consistency. Few, if anyone, who listens to Love is the Only Game in Town will label any of the tracks filler. 

Moogalian’s throwback reverb spiked guitar attack rarely mounts sustained assaults but, instead, dives in and out of the mix. It strafes the rhythm section and Risacher’s frequent keyboard work with dark, elastic lines that don’t reverberate as much they do jar the ear. The duo’s lyrical content is an underestimated strength pushing these songs to meet their potential and few examples of that are stronger than the title song. “She’s So Mysterious” is the first song in a series on the album ruminating on love’s fortunes and misfortunes. Moogalian’s guitar is practically surgical here, slicing in and out of the mix, but oddly much more immediate than the first song. Percussion and keyboard effects are the musical lynchpins of “Show Me What You’ve Got”, but Risacher’s first spotlight vocal turn is the song’s true peak. Her voice weaves a much more sensitive mood than even Moogalian’s vocals do and she stretches phrasing with tremendous finesse. “When I Saw Jesus” is the album’s first sustained foray into satire, but the duo doesn’t give short-shrift to their musical aims despite the apparent light-hearted nature of the material. Like all talented satirists, there’s an added layer of commentary and serious intent buried just beneath the surface of the song. “Flow” is the album’s softest entry yet and, like all the tracks on this album, never meanders. Secret Season are adept at shaping their musical vision to conform to fluid borders without ever falling into self-indulgence.  

“Mean Streak” has a stronger bluesy edge than many of the album’s tracks, but it’s never slavish imitation. It’s unlikely that Moogalian could ever content himself with merely aping the musical moves of his inspirations, so purists need not apply to hear this. Moogalian pours new wine into old bottles but the new vintage holds much of the older taste. “I Wanna Be With You” is a surprisingly successful stab into outright radio friendly pop, but there’s never a sense of the duo cheapening their vision with such work. Instead, it’s one of the album’s best fun tracks . 

As the cliché goes, there’s something here for everyone. Love is the Only Game in Town has a coherence born from confidence, talent, and experience. Secret Season are a truly unique unit in a field populated with cookie cutter acts and their fourth album amply reinforces that point.  

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9 out of 10 stars. 

Stephen Bailey