A Newcomer with an Old Soul

On his new EP, the up-and-coming New York-based singer-songwriter delivers downcast electronic soul ditties about retreating inside oneself.

Elliot Moss / Boomerang

Everywhere you look, comparisons have been drawn between rising New York singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Elliot Moss and UK post-dubstep poster child James Blake. And not without good reason, too. The two share the same musical adroitness that enables them to successfully fuse various textures and soulful vocals with elements of gospel, RB, electronica as well as jazz. Eerie yet sensual, the end result is the kind of music that thrives best in the after-hours.

Moss’s 2015 self-produced debut studio album Highspeeds, released when he was just 21, did just what Blake’s did: exuding world-weary observations of a brooding old soul. “I’m tired/ I’ve been waiting for you/ I’m so tired and I need to lay down,” Moss sang from the get-go on the title track/opener that recalled the electronica lushness of Imogen Heap. This sentiment seeped through the record, especially on Slip, his claim-to-fame cut which has racked up some 30 million plays on Spotify so far. That’s no mean feat considering the fact that he’s only just burst onto the scene a few years ago.

After two years in the making, Moss returns with Boomerang, a seven-track EP that details his struggles “between choosing to face the sometimes-unpleasant realities of the outside world or to withdraw inward to a place of relative safety”. Closedloop sets the tone of the record with the swelling synths and lyrics about revelling in a slice of escapism. “I went to a place/ To repair and rest myself/ But I never left,” he croons. “The loop of the waves/ Crashing on my shore got stuck in my head/ And never came out.”

Underpinned by skittering drum programming, Without the Lights finds him stuck in a destructive relationship (“She waltzed her way into the sea/ Baby take me with you please/ I don’t know what I’d do if you leave”). 99 circles back to the theme of escapism with Moss’s vocals taking the centre stage. “Hide all the keys, and seal our windows/ ‘Cause I’m going to war/ Don’t hold your breath waiting for me/ ‘Cause I may never come home,” he intones in layered vocals against the atmospheric electronic backdrop, sparse piano chords and claps.

This is followed by the title track, a taciturn offering in which he posits “‘Cause it’s so much harder to fall in love/ When you’ve been in love before.” The song segues into My Statue Sinking, a sort of orchestral reprise of Closedloop, before sliding into the Auto-tune-dominant Dolly Zoom. The EP concludes with the most upbeat number Falling Down and Getting Hurt. Its dancefloor-worthy beats paired with uplifting lyrics about not giving up make for a nice relief from the EP’s overall sombre vibes.

If you’re partial to minimalistic production and a big sucker for soulful vocals a la James Blake, Justin Vernon or James Vincent McMorrow, Elliot Moss is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

THE PLAYLIST

Migrate to the Ocean/ E Kah (Night’s Watch)

Made up of Prachya Compiranont, Sumet Yordkaew, Krit Suwanthada, Vajira Ruthirakanok and Witsawawit Tepa, Chiang Mai’s rock quintet Migrate to the Ocean have been on our radar for a while now. After putting out their excellent 2014 self-titled debut, the boys returned last month with a new single Khon Nok and here we have its follow-up, E Kah (Night’s Watch). Told through vocalist Prachya’s sprechgesang vocals, the track is about the disillusionment of adulthood and musically reminiscent of rap-rock duo Twenty One Pilots.

Haim/ Right Now

Right Now marks the first new music from the Californian indie-rock sisters following their 2013 breakthrough debut Days Are Gone. The track, lifted from the siblings’ forthcoming sophomore LP, kicks off with sparse drum machine beats as Danielle sings about an unfulfilling relationship. Este then introduces a growling bassline and background vocals, further highlighting Danielle’s role as a narrator. As the tension builds, Este and Alana step up to the drums, giving us what could easily be one of the most cathartic, epic drumming moments in pop music we’ve heard this year.

Hawaiian T-shirt/ Chantelle

LA trio Hawaiian T-shirt describe their sound as “angry music to maybe dance and punch people to and maybe laugh or cry” on their Bandcamp page and we’ve got to say they’re not too far off the mark. Lead single Chantelle finds the art-rock three-piece running a gamut of emotions from angst to elation. “Have you met Chantelle?” vocalist/guitarist Ana Ayon yelps in a tone that warrants an exclamation mark rather than a question mark. What follows is a concert of searing guitars and sprightly basslines so opulent in their lo-fi, dance-punk aesthetics — like what you would get if you were to combine early Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Le Tigre.

The Charlatans/ Plastic Machinery

Ahead of the release of their 13th studio outing Different Days due out next week, Britpop mainstays The Charlatans share with us the first single titled Plastic Machinery. Featuring The Smiths’ iconic Johnny Marr on guitar and The Verve’s Pete Salisbury on drums, the song doesn’t stray too far from the group’s signature Madchester sound and the sort of life-affirming lyrics which, according to frontman Tim Burgess, are about “finding beauty in uncertain times”.

Mac DeMarco/ One More Love Song

Judging from what we’ve heard so far from his new studio album, This Old Dog, Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco has obviously done a whole lot of growing up during the making of it. Hot on the heels of addressing heavier topics like growing old and coming to terms with a rather strained relationship with his dad, he’s now touching on the time-tested theme of heartbreak on latest cut, One More Love Song. “One more love, out to break your heart/ Set it up, just to watch it fall apart,” he croons over languid synths and soft, jazzy percussion. It’s pretty and sad all at once.