It is always a challenge for veteran artists to stay relevant and keep music listener's interest. Especially in today's short attention span music world, veteran acts have to rely on their diehard, long time fan base more than ever. Moby, already a big name in the electronic and dance music worlds, became an international star with 1999's Play. A musician's reaction to reaching that level of success is always interesting. Some repeat the formula ad nauseam, some go in a completely different direction, like Prince did after Purple Rain, losing a bunch of casual listeners but gaining respect and a dedicated group of fans.
Moby's initial reaction to Play was the very similar 18, an album I still love as much as its predecessor. His career since then has been interesting to watch. As the million selling albums stopped and the general public lost interest, Moby wandered a bit. He eschewed samples for the live in studio Hotel, then returned to his early dance roots for Last Night, one of my least favorite albums of his. But starting with 2009's Wait For Me and continuing with 2011's Destroyed, he has returned to what he does best. Mostly downtempo, beautiful, orchestral electronic music.
Innocents continues the streak of strong albums Moby is on and I'll be the first to admit, it sticks to the blueprint of his last two albums. Much of it is somber, string laden and downtempo. But this time Moby enlisted the great Mark 'Spike' Stent to produce the album instead of handling the production role himself, as he usually does. And Stent has touched Innocents with a much fuller, richer sound, you'd never know it was another work recorded in Moby's apartment. It's a wonderfully produced album.
Seven of the album's 12 songs enlist a guest vocalist with Canadian singer-songwriter Cold Specks delivering knockout performances on both "A Case of Shame" and "Tell Me". Her voice is perfect on these dark, but beautiful songs. Damien Jurado lends a vulnerable performance to "Almost Home", while The Flaming Lips' own Wayne Coyne is featured on the upbeat and uplifting "The Perfect Life". "The Last Day" featuring Skylar Grey is another favorite. With a vocal sample running underneath throughout, the song definitely calls to mind material from the Play/18 era.
I'm sure Moby is due for another dance record at some point, but for now I am perfectly satisfied with what he continues to deliver. Innocents is a truly captivating listen.
Favorite tracks: "A Case For Shame", "The Last Day", "Tell Me", "Everything That Rises"
Innocents was released September 30, 2013 via Moby's Little Idiot label.