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First Play: Moby, Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt

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Jess Huddleston

Twenty-six years after Moby’s debut album, the famed electronica artist amazingly hasn’t fallen into a slump. With his 15th album, Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, like any Moby album prior, you don’t exactly know what you’re going to get from one track to the next — but you can guarantee the ride will be soulful as hell.

Moby, born Richard Melville Hall, does a few things really well. Better yet, he musically depicts a number of feelings really well. Always kissed with melancholy and longing, Moby’s downtempo trip-hop beats feel like a dark, late-night walk with a head full of messy thoughts. But in classic Moby style, that next cinematic ballad will be the opening in the clouds — the moment of spiritual clarity that leaves you in an ambient trance, maybe even a little weak in the knees.

The album’s first three tracks toe a fine line between spooky and sultry, layering Moby’s nonchalant croon and spoken-word delivery over echoey percussion. Come “The Last of Goodbyes” and “The Ceremony of Innocence,” those clouds have already parted by way of soaring, Enya-like choruses and galloping piano.

This new album features a number of female vocalists (and soloists in their own right) from Moby’s loyal rotation, including Mindy Jones, Julie Mintz and Apollo Jane who, in trading verses with Moby, remind us of gorgeous tracks past, like “Dream About Me” off of 2005’s Hotel and “The Last Day,” his 2013 Innocents duet with Skylar Grey.

What might feel best about listening to a Moby album, save for the aforementioned emotions he paints so vividly, is his special balance of reinvention and nostalgia; specifically, the way he honours sounds from the defining era of electronica that moulded him. A new song like “Welcome to the Hard Times” could have readily been included on his wildly successful 1997 album Play, or even French electronic duo Air’s groundbreaking 1998 release, Moon Safari. But by the time the stunning and expertly mixed “This Wild Darkness” kicks in, Moby has landed us right back in 2018.

On Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, Moby’s push and pull between darkness and light, vice and purity, is its strongest yet — something that might be a dead giveaway in scanning the track titles. But, as the album title suggests, 20-plus years later the light still wins. And it wins beautifully.

Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt will be released on March 2. Pre-order it here.