Maya Hawke brings us the melancholic sound of late summer on her newest album, MOSS. Though its instrumentals are occasionally monotonous, the album’s vulnerable lyrics beautifully portray the nostalgia in growing up.
With MOSS, the Stranger Things star establishes herself in the indie-folk genre through poetic lyrics and atmospheric instrumentals. The repeated, hypnotic acoustic guitar riffs throughout the album sound like they’re straight from a Sufjan Stevens album, but the narrative vocal melodies are reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s folklore.
The first three tracks of MOSS sound rather similar: a gentle soprano melody driven by a hypnotic but simple acoustic guitar accompaniment. “Backup Plan” tells a love story, while “Bloomed into Blue” is about a young girl who grows up unnoticed and unappreciated. The narrator in “Hiatus” sings about longing for a boy who might hurt her. Each song is pleasant but unsurprising, and without much variation in tempo or instrumentation, they start to blend together. After the first three songs, “Sweet Tooth” gives the listener much needed contrast. The atmospheric sound and soft melody in “Sweet Tooth” remain consistent with the earlier tracks, but the faster tempo and light beat are much more engaging.
In an interview with FLOOD, Hawke explains that every sound on the record was used at least three times to give the album overall cohesion. She took inspiration from Phoebe Bridgers’s “Garden Song,” and wanted the album to have a pulse, rather than a beat. Hawke’s vision is admirable and makes for a consistent album, but it is ultimately homogenous and safe.
The lyrics on MOSS read like a diary entry. In “Luna Moth,” Hawke tells us, “I don’t need anyone to hurt me/I can do that myself,” as she reflects on a past relationship. She ends with, “If I could, I would be anyone else.” In “Driver,” Hawke sings about the love depicted in movies and recalls her early childhood, when her parents had the same love. She says, “I’d give everything I’ll ever have to see them happy/Kissin’ just like that.” This is painful to listen to, especially knowing that Hawke’s parents separated when she was five years old. It’s moments like these that make the album worth listening to—Hawke’s vulnerability is gripping despite the monotonous instrumentals.
What MOSS lacks in musical diversity, it makes up for in honest, relatable lyrics. The sparse instrumentals perfectly compliment the vulnerability in Hawke’s voice, and allow her poetic writing to shine through. Hawke calls MOSS a “back to school” album because it explores themes and significant moments in her childhood—puberty, her sexuality, and her education. Its melancholic portrait of growing up is relevant to most teenagers, especially those who have lost portions of their adolescence to COVID. Despite its homogeneity, MOSS’s gentle instrumentals and sensitivity make it a compelling and beautiful album, worthy of a listen.