Elliott Moss

Grand Jury Music, 2015


REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka


Conventional wisdom tells us that if you want something done right, do it yourself. The debut album from Elliot Moss, Highspeeds, takes this to heart. “Recorded at his home studio, [Elliot] Moss performed, produced, and mixed the entire album with the exception of a few friends,” states the bio on the Grand Jury Music website. It turns out his DIY approach to making music has not only allowed him artistic control of his material but helped it coalesce into a unified sound and vision. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Opening with the wistful title track, Highspeeds then shifts gears on “Big Bad Wolf” to an upbeat track, oftentimes with odd rhythmic patterns or time signatures (which are also seen on “Plastic II”). The ebb-and-flow between the haunting, moody ballads and the more brisk numbers gives the album a dynamism that keeps it from going stale.

The inevitable comparisons with James Blake and Chet Faker will show that Moss is not really breaking any new musical ground with this album. However, this album has strong songs with catchy vocal hooks, layered with ambient keyboards, sparse guitar figures, and back-masked sound effects which gives the material its idiosyncratic sound. The processed, overdubbed, and R&B-inflected vocal tracks prove to be the most distinctive element of Moss’s music, as featured prominently on the track “Slip.” The use of all these elements still feels organic and well integrated into the songs rather than descending into a messy ambient drone that it could have been.

The songs are typically built around a very simple structure – usually only a couple of chords or a single progression. This simplicity does not result in weak songs; quite the contrary. Moss succeeds in creating catchy material with an interesting layering of sounds. While the singing style and phrasing at times echoes Jeff Buckley (as on “About Time” or “Best Light”) or a bit of Radiohead (as on “Pattern Repeating”), the disc never feels like it’s looking backwards or encumbered by the influence of others.

Moss deserves much credit for a debut release that has such a well-crafted and cohesive sound. It is a testimony to his creative abilities that this entire album was a solo effort in the truest sense of the term. Alternately moody and dreamy, this album was a rewarding listen, leaving me looking forward to what is coming next.

Rating: B+

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