On his poignant second album, the multitalented singer-songwriter gives voice to the self-doubts that manifest in the wee hours of the morning.
In an interview from 2017, a 23-year-old Elliot Moss told Billboard he liked to work “after the world’s gone to bed.” On A Change in Diet, his second full-length album, the multitalented singer-songwriter gives voice to the creeping whispers of self-doubt that show up unannounced in the wee hours of the morning. Moss makes subdued electro-pop with a deceptively dark, almost despondent, bent — music that leans into the stark reality of those late-night ruminations, when the world seems dark and dreary and even the most innocuous details take on a foreboding significance.
For Moss, letting his mind wander is an opportunity to reflect on relationships, both past and present. On “Bodyintoshapes,” Moss repeats the titular refrain over softly pulsing synths, addressing a significant other he can’t get out of his head. “My mind is a razor,” Moss sighs, “and you’re looking like a thread.” The lyrics occasionally deviate into broad ambiguities or the platitudes of bad spoken-word poetry, as on album opener “July 4th” (“You and I, we’re a couple of fireworks/Falling from the sky”). But when the writing is specific, it’s often sharp and deftly evocative, particularly when Moss draws from personal memory, as on the plaintive, sparsely produced “A Change in Diner”: “We order coffee in a loud diner/Fitting words in between plates/And we brace/Wondering who’ll be the one to stay.”
If the album suffers from any overarching issue, it’s a sense of sameness: Moss wrote and produced each song, and it sometimes seems like he’s not pushing himself far enough. Tracks build towards a climax that never materializes, often ending abruptly or tapering off lamely. Moss’ singing voice is pleasant enough, but not particularly strong, and he makes little effort to test its limits, preferring to rely on standard vocal processing tricks and his formidable ear for production. Moss’ other stylistic experiments fall a bit flat, like on “Smile in the Rain,” a folkish indie anthem that sounds like a track from a completely different album.
But on the standout “Silver + Gold,” all of Moss’ considerable talents coalesce around a richly textured beat and soulful, straightforward lyrics (“Before us, I took a wrong turn down the wrong road/I closed my eyes and I gave up control”). Moss enjoyed a well-deserved bump in popularity in 2015 when a dance video set to his song “Slip” went viral, and he understands the power of thoughtfully produced visuals. In the video for “Silver + Gold” (Moss has a co-directing credit), he makes clear the themes of lost innocence and longing for simpler times he hints at on the album: in the final shot, a young man sheds his ski mask after breaking into his childhood home and grabs a miniature toy plane from his closet for one exultant last hurrah around the neighborhood. “I gave up control, I gave up control,” Moss croons repeatedly, as the camera pans to the character running through the streets in slo-mo and synths in the background settle down to a shimmer. He sounds like he’s comforting himself, finding solace in loosening up and letting the chips fall where they may. For better or for worse, he sounds resigned to his fate.
Buy: Rough Trade
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