While his friends were actively preparing for college and their future careers, singer/songwriter Elliot Moss was a sophomore in high school, mixing music for an album that, at that point, was confined to the realm of dreams.
In 2015, those dreams began to turn into reality when that album, “Highspeeds,” dropped, and opportunities opened up for Moss to tour with bands like Cold War Kids and Oh Wonder. Additionally, “Highspeeds” (especially the early release “Slip”) received acclaim from sources like Sonic Breakfast and The Musicality, and was named one of the best songs of 2014.
What helped put “Slip” (and, by proxy, Moss) on the map was, interestingly enough, a dance cover of the song. Soon after the release of the album “Highspeeds,” choreographer Phillip Chbeeb partnered with dancer Renee Kester to create a spiraling, intricate dance piece set in an empty train station. This video went viral, garnering over 16 million views.
In 2017, Moss followed this achievement with the release of “Boomerang,” an EP featuring seven superbly crafted songs that reflect the artistry he hinted at with “Highspeeds.” Yet, despite his skill and previous success (albeit a quiet success), Moss is still flying under the radar, with only 11,000 followers on Instagram and 363,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
However, his unique sound, intelligent compositions and thoughtful lyrics won’t stay unseen for long. So, if you haven’t heard of him before now, go take a listen and give yourself time to become obsessed. You’ll thank me.
His debut album, “Highspeeds,” is characterized by sleek voice distortion, layered acoustics and soft electronica, all best seen from the vantage point of his hit, “Slip.” With distorted vocals creating an ephemeral, misty tone, sliding synths and sound effects like cymbals sizzling to a silence, Moss crafts a slick atmosphere that fits the title.
Lyrically, the title track, “Highspeeds,” speaks to a time in Moss’ life when he was creating the album. In the song, he writes about how his friends are moving forward with their lives: “I’m so tired and I need to lay down / But you’re traveling high speeds / And you’re fast / Too fast to chase anymore.”
The rest of the album expresses this sentiment of trying to hold on to something that’s drifting beyond your reach. In “Even Great Things,” Moss croons, “I can’t go on, but I hope you can / It’s always hard to say goodbye / But even great things die sometimes.”
Similarly, in “Best Light,” he sings, “I was so tired / Of hanging on to that / Last bit of light.” Like the rest of the album, these songs create a sort of hopeless feel, overlaid on a lighter, airier manifestation of Moss’ style.
In his EP, “Boomerang,” however, the sound darkens to match the more somber lyrics, which mature from the cheap lines about loss seen in “Highspeeds” to masterful poetic musings on the wide variety of subjects “Boomerang” touches. The deep, intensified synths and his signature voice distortion (to say the EP is best experienced in headphones is an understatement) perfectly complement Moss’ move to darker subject matter.
This shift is exemplified in the crown jewel of the EP, “99.” Arguably the fan favorite, it gives an account of a soldier heading to war never to return, while the chilling song “Without the Lights” shares the toxic claustrophobia that stems from an abusive relationship.
With the music video for “Without the Lights,” Moss took the storytelling aspect a step further, collaborating with Phillip Chbeeb (the choreographer who created the viral “Slip” dance cover) and dancer Erica Klein to produce haunting visuals for “Without the Lights,” actualizing the tonal and lyrical expressions of the emotional and physical tolls abuse takes on a person.
To help convey this sense of smothering pressure that tunnels through “Boomerang,” Moss uses the image of the ocean and waves in five out of the seven songs. The opening track, “Closedloop,” introduces this metaphor well as Moss sings about the ocean speaking to him, getting stuck in his head and dragging him into the deep.
Lines like “I went to a place / To repair and rest myself / But I never left / The loop of the waves / Crashing on my shore got stuck in my head / And never came out” set the tone for the dark tidal pull that the EP, lyrically and sonically, exerts on its listeners.
Yet, despite the dark lyrics and themes in “Boomerang,” a touch of hope rears its head at the end. “Falling Down and Getting Hurt” repeats, almost as a mantra, “But I get back up again.” It’s a powerful image to end the otherwise bleak EP on: no matter how many times the ocean (whatever that may represent for you) pulls you under, you can always get back on your feet.
While Moss’ released projects have been hailed for their artistry and expertise, neither his album nor his EP has been able to move him off of the sidelines. However, if Moss’ next creative endeavor demonstrates the same artistic maturing and development seen from “Highspeeds” to “Boomerang,” maybe it will finally get him to start treading water in the industry.