It’s hard to believe that Dean Pelton-lookalike Moby has been a genre fixture for over two decades now. Since the release of his self-titled debut in 1992, Moby has become something of an icon within the electronic community, so much so that Eminem personally called him out in “Without Me.” Though given electronic music’s explosive proliferation in the last decade, I think we can safely say Marshall Mathers was proven wrong: people do, in fact, listen to “techno.”
Innocents marks Moby’s eleventh release, and the album’s first single, “A Case For Shame,” which features the vocal stylings of Cold Specks, is in my humble opinion nothing short of mesmerizing. Consequently, I waited in unsettled anticipation for the release of the full album with the same eagerness gamers seemingly had for the release of Grand Theft Auto V (at least that’s what I’m surmising based on the sudden drop in Facebook activity from the majority of my male friends).
Right off the bat, if you’re expecting generic housey unce-unce-unce banger after banger, you’re in the wrong place. As an album, Innocents is decidedly introspective even by Moby’s standards. It’s also one of his most collaborative albums to date with featured guests ranging from the soulful Inyang Bassey to Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips fame. Yet despite the breadth of collaboration here — and there is a lot of that – -this album is very much cohesive.
Album high points include the already-lauded “A Case For Shame” and Moby’s blissfully haunting collaboration with singer-songwriter Skylar Grey on “The Last Day,” which reads a lot like something dream pop duo Azure Ray would put out. However, the standout track for me is without a doubt “Saints.” A progressive opus reminiscent of Hybrid’s “Unfinished Symphony” but with a little more pep in its step, “Saints” features some subtly sexy progressive drumbeats and even sexier strings. If I could marry a song and if polygamy was legal, this would be among my husbands.
Although Innocents is beautifully tied together and is lacking in any tracks I ardently dislike, there are admittedly a couple tracks on here that are less than memorable for me. Surprisingly among them is “The Lonely Night,” a song featuring grunge artist Mark Lanegan that I was hoping would win me over by virtue of being the most “huh?”-worthy collaboration on the record. As a standalone track, the overly ambient melodies and Lanegan’s raspy voice just seem ill-suited for one another. Still, the song does flow nicely with the rest of the record, especially given its placement as the penultimate track leading into the finale.
Although the pitfall of eagerly waiting for something is that the thing in question will almost always fall short of the awesomeness you’re hoping for, I’m happy to report that Innocents more than lives up to my expectations. It will no doubt be a polarizing album for fans who were hoping for something a little more accessible given electronic music’s mainstream popularity, but I, for one, adore it. Innocents is deftly produced and musically thought-provoking. I can’t wait to see how it translates live.
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