Unlike what you may expect from its title, “Justinian” isn’t about ancient Roman history.
Or is it? The Moon Hound song, off brand-new EP, Wait for Nothing, uses analogous historical imagery to share a personal experience. It’s not quite historic, but it’s broad enough to apply to just about everything, so it’s pretty neat.
This tune is clearly influenced by the likes of the most known alternative folk music, but the singer’s blunt voice in accordance with a simple acoustic guitar seems almost slightly Midwest emo-adjacent. The distinguishing factor here, though, is that it’s much more soft and polished. “Justinian” feels outdoorsy and lively, in part due to its defining fingerpicked and sparkly strings.
Most folk stuff is pretty chill in the background, so there’s a pretty strong focus on lyrics, which stand out. With Moon Hound, it’s a bit different. I think part of it has to do with the addition of the violins about halfway through, giving a more triumphant feel. About twenty seconds in, we’re greeted with a new string set (from a mandolin or a harp, it sounds like) that resumes near the song’s chorus with the violins. When everything comes together, including Moon Hound’s climactic vocals, “Justinian” feels almost orchestral, a feeling you don’t always get from folk songs. It’s unique and emotional.
“Quietly, we’ll let them rest in the stones of Budapest // I’ll hold your hand as the sun goes down”
This song is a wholesome, reassuring love letter. It’s about the understanding that while people may come and go, sometimes sticking with one person through it all is best. Moon Hound clearly loves their descriptors, as the lyrics kind of feel like an old children’s story that paints a picture in someone’s head. But instead, it’s made for adults.
“We watched our people come // From rooms they had built from none”
This song’s title, “Justinian,” is pretty unique and presumably named after the old Roman and Byzantine Emperor, most known for the reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia. It took me a while to notice the old historic symbolism woven throughout the lyrics, but once I did, “Justinian” took on a whole new meaning for me. It romanticizes these old historical eras and uses them to describe a current, personal situation metaphorically. I personally love when songwriters do this; it provides an extra layer to a song’s complexity and, depending on the metaphor, sets it apart from others.
History is full of morals and lessons, but here’s mine; rather than thinking about the past, I urge you to think about the ever-present future of Moon Hound.