Days Gone By

Bob Moses

Domino, 2015

http://bobmosesmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/22/2017

On the surface, Bob Moses’ first album appears to be a simple mix of wistful indie-pop songwriting and chilled-out house music, but there’s so much roiling under the surface that it takes a few listens to really appreciate – and once you do, you’ll instantly be drawn in to the smoky world of Days Gone By.

The duo behind Bob Moses (it’s just a name, like Pink Floyd) is singer Tom Howie and musician Jimmy Vallance; they have released a couple of EPs and are known to a select few, but the release of this disc bolstered their profile a bit. The “hit” song – at least on alternative rock radio stations – was a remix of “Tearing Me Up” that trimmed two minutes off the original and enhanced the EDM aspects of the song a bit.

The notion of combining moody songwriting and vocals with electronic beats isn’t new, of course, as bands like Depeche Mode perfected the form in the 1980s. But Bob Moses isn’t about hitting hard or making pop singles, but rather creating brooding atmosphere, the kind of restrained yet insidious music that works as well in the bedroom as it does on the dance floor as it does in the car on a rainy Midwest day. The pop smarts of the disc allow for a wealth of vocal hooks and the beats are the vehicle that carry those hooks, and if my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Days Gone By stays in its lane pretty rigidly for its hour-long run time, the variations on this basic theme prove that these guys pretty much nailed this sort of intoxicating blend.

To be sure, the repetition within the songs may be a turnoff to those who crave dynamics, since Vallance has a tendency to state his initial theme with the first couple of minutes and then repeat it several times. Nearly all the songs drift into the six- or seven-minute range when four or five minutes would do. Of course, you’ll be lost in your own world while listening anyway, so it’s no major concern.

Besides, there are enough moments that seamlessly blend the two styles, thanks primarily to Howie’s smoky voice. “Before I Fall” is easily a hit single, mining the same atmosphere as the rest but adding a dash of guitar and a more conventional song structure to create a melancholy gem. The original version of “Tearing Me Up” is the standout track and the emotional midpoint of the album, riding a popping bassline and simulated finger snaps under Howie’s husky vocal telling of unrequited love for a woman already taken, then exploding into layered vocals with a slight guitar riff underneath in the catchy chorus. You barely notice the EDM trick as the bass drops out while the vocals rise in a crescendo before slamming back for the chorus.

It’s these layers, this attention to detail and this atmosphere that makes this disc a success. If there’s a detriment, it’s that each track is deliberate in its pacing and structure and there is little variety, meaning as much as Days Gone By inhabits its own world, it’s a world that gets a little too gray after a while. It’s tough to get through in one sitting without some sort of shift in dynamics. “Nothing At All” tries to shake things up a bit with its up-and-down bumblebee buzz bassline, but it only serves as a waystation between the icy sculptures like the title track, “Writing On The Wall” and the closing “Touch And Go.” Again, these are all good songs in and of themselves, but they’re all very similar to each other and, frankly, tough to tell apart after a while.

But Bob Moses shows considerable pop smarts, hook-writing ability, and an ability to effortlessly blend modern indie with modern house electronica to create a unique atmosphere. One feels with a little editing – and maybe a dash of flair – their next album will be even better.

Rating: B

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