“IT’D BE better if the world would all slow down,” the song “ClosedLoop” woefully laments, the acoustic arrangement in the background deceptively simple and the voice that accompanies it hushed. After a series of drum taps follows a slight distortion that mutes the clear guitar sounds, and then immediately intensifies. The song is somber, wondering about the benefits of facing reality when one can choose to stay home, and its message is enhanced by the sleek atmosphere the musical arrangement creates. This is a talent that music artist Elliot Moss has mastered in his 2017 album, Boomerang. The album is the epitome of the indietronica genre, and altogether shows Elliot Moss as a talent who is severely underappreciated.
The “ClosedLoop” of Elliot Moss
The passion and talent for music was always in him. Elliot Moss began his journey in high school, when he first began posting his songs on Soundcloud. These would eventually become a part of his debut album, Highspeeds (2015). He is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who plays many instruments such as the piano and guitar, and his individualized style closely follows the indietronica genre.
Indietronica, which combines “indie” and “electronic,” is a genre that couples the melodies of indie music with electronic equipment. Merging elements of indie, rock, pop, and electronic sounds, the style was first introduced in the early 1990s by rock bands who experimented with electronic music. Elliot Moss is no stranger to electronics as he incorporates synthesizers* and vocoders** in many of his songs. In an interview with The Yonsei Annals, he revealed that he started using electronic sounds because of the “genre’s limitlessness.” When using electronics, “the direction you’re going in is totally unpredictable and non-linear,” giving listeners no time to speculate what comes next as they are swept away by the beat. His style regularly consists of voice distortions mixed with acoustic melodies, as well as emotional and poetic lyrics.
Boomerang, his second album, contains only seven songs, and each sets a dark mood created by the distorted sounds, telling a vivid story that listeners can follow along easily. The main theme throughout the seven songs is the concept of duality and contrast, which Moss declares is one of his favorite elements to play with: the constant push-and-pull people face throughout their lives. This is portrayed visually in his album cover, with its swirls of red and blue – two contrasting colors battling for dominance. Filled with mature themes, contrasting beats, and haunting sounds, this perfect combination of voice, lyrics, and art creates a masterful album.
Catching the “Boomerang”
Compared to his debut album Highspeeds, which tends to focus more on hopes and promises, the Boomerang album is more mature and somber, touching on dark themes such as abuse and anxiety. The overall mood of the album feels like a massive wave crashing into the murky ocean. Moss is able to create such a specific ambience because his typical arrangement involves the use of electronics that makes the songs feel otherworldly, as if the listener is being taken to a fantasy world, while also being ground to reality because of his soulful voice.
The tune begins softly with simple taps of the drums and Moss’ singing is untainted by the vocoder. His voice almost melts like butter, his tenor fully expressing the soulfulness of each word. Moss wistfully sings the chorus, “It’d be better if I was swimmin’ in the shallows” than “spend my whole life catching up to you.” The moment the chorus ends, the initial calm mood is broken as a wave of electric sounds replaces the acoustics, and the listener is disoriented. The abrupt change to the synthesized noise seems jarring, but it clearly emphasizes the feeling of constantly facing contradictory choices. The battle between the acoustic and electronic sounds almost feels like a battle between reality and fantasy,
further allowing the listener to experience these complexities of duality.
The song “Boomerang” is noticeably more tranquil and consists mainly of Moss’ singing and a simple chordal structure, creating an ethereal ambience. The raw singing feels more intimate, giving a tender and reserved feeling that propels the entire track with raw emotion and nostalgic mood. The minimalistic effect succeeds in making Moss’ unaltered voice sound both chilling and alluring. Essentially, the song focuses on the subject of tackling our troubles instead of internalizing them and trying to forget about them. Moss metaphorically lines up the image of a boomerang coming back to its owner with how we face hardships; the troubles we face may come and go but one must actually throw the boomerang first to solve the problem.
“Falling Down and Getting Hurt”
It is when the three components blend in perfect harmony that the album shows itself to be a true masterpiece. The last song, “Falling Down and Getting Hurt”, has a head-bopping beat that uplifts the listeners and puts a positive spin on the finale of the album. The contrast of mood between the former and latter part of the album is noticeable, emphasizing Moss’ ultimate message of the album: healing after a long, arduous battle with trauma. There is a slight distortion to Moss’ voice, but it is subtle enough that his sleek, soulful voice is still present. The musical arrangement moves back and forth from electronic to acoustic, giving each its moment to shine. Moss also experiments with merging the two together, ultimately creating a complex melody that gives a vivid image of a messy, but eventful life. The lyrics “my blue skies went overcast; zoom in and pull the camera back” conjures images of someone snapping back into reality after being in a daze, becoming prepared to face an unpredictable but thrilling future. Unlike the previous songs that touch upon the various past hardships in life, “Falling Down and Getting Hurt” reminds listeners to start again. “If there is any one thing I’d like people to take away,” he comments, “it’s that you can always find your way out of the dark.”
Overall, the experimental elements of the album work gracefully to develop Moss’ deep narrative and make it easier for the audience to picture each story clearly. He cleverly uses electronic sounds to underscore the five senses and transport listeners to his fantasy world.
”Falling Down and Getting Hurt”, only to get back up again
No album is without its flaws, however. Understandably, there are times Moss fails to balance out the electronica or is unable to truly portray his intentions to his listeners.
His more experimental piece “Dolly Zoom” consists entirely of electronic sounds. His smooth, silky voice is masked by robotic sounds, hiding the talent of Moss’ true voice. The entire song sounds disarrayed, but this does not seem intended. Instead, it feels involuntarily chaotic and disorganized, leaving the listener in a state of confusion. The heavy reliance on voice distortion distracts the audience from the lyrics, preventing them from delving into the deeper narrative. Sadly, the listener is no longer transported into a fantasy but rooted back into a fake reality.
However, no one can deny the true beauty of the album, in which Moss innovatively expresses his music through the indietronica genre. Moss constantly experiments with different styles, curious to see what interesting tunes he will develop. His passion for the genre is evident, Moss commenting that “there is something addictive about […] trying to find the musicality in something that doesn’t intend to be musical. Capturing that is fun, like a firefly in a jar.”
The Boomerang album has the powerful ability to capture the audience’s attention from the first beat and keep them hooked until the very last. The masterful blends of Moss’ contrasting sounds create space in which time has stopped, and the audience is able take in the beauty of each piece without feeling rushed. His music has the ability to transport you to another world,
*Synthesizer: Small pianos that can virtually copy any sound and can also put them together to create a completely new melody
**Vocoder: A synthesizer that produces sounds through the analysis of the recorded voice input