Moby's "18" offers soundtrack feel

grade: B

Is it pop music? Or should it be considered post-modern neoclassical rock?

In his latest album, Moby combines his efforts of pop-tronica that eludes to more soul and lightheartedness than some of his previous albums that produced club hits that were just too fast.

Oh, but "18" is definitely dance worthy, whether it involves an interpretive dance or a couple grinding sweat on the dance floor; kid sisters and old men down the street can find something on this album.

It opens with Moby singing, "we are all made of stars" in the song of the same title. It is jazzy pop that can be found on the radio, but pop isn't the right word to fit this mix of songs that makes "18" a musical kaleidoscope.

Many of the pieces fit, but some could have been removed to make the album "15" or "14" to add more of a coherent musical landscape. However there are no rules to making an album especially when dealing with theme.

In songs like "In This World" and "In My Heart," Moby doesn't seem to take a giant leap from his previous album "Play." Instead of taking a step forward with his sound or a step backwards, he takes merely a side step and produces soulful melodies backed by beeps, clicks, chugs and synthesizer to keep up with his tradition of gentle electronica.

Rather than having only a few vocals throughout the album, like his previous albums, or looping sound bytes, and making most of his music instrumental, Moby gives "18" ginger songs that don't prove to be audacious. With the help of different singers, some of the songs hide in the background, especially "Great Escape" sung by Azure Ray.

Adding more words to his pieces, it seems that Moby has a message inside "18." What that message is, is yet to be discerned, but with more lyrics, listeners can get a feel of who Moby is, especially in the retro-hymnal with a subtle disco beat called "Signs of Love" (in which he sings, adding fine vocals).

The work on "18" seems like a personal soundtrack, whether it's for Moby, a 15-year-old lost somewhere in mid-America, or an upcoming indie film -- these pieces can be taken from the album as singular pieces, or a collaborative mesh.

Along with the soundtrack feel, soul-filled women find themselves as lead vocals throughout "18" and after Moby's acid trip to the south in "Play," hoop earrings, large hair and platform shoes echo through the Diana Ross-like song "One of These Mornings." Other songs that have the electronica-soul feel like 1960s Motown was rediscovered by the year 3015.

With the ups of these 18 tracks, the one downfall to "18" is the over use of the synth-violin hum used in the background of many songs, including tracks two, three, six, seven, nine and 11. This device, although it gives a peaceful feel to the songs, blends the songs together making the songs sound the same.

Having a studio in his apartment really defines Moby as an artist, especially when he had 150 songs to choose from for "18." And even if Moby doesn't make leaps and bounds compared to his last work, "18" doesn't fall short -- we just find Moby in a familiar place, and if he likes it there and produces music that can soothe the soul, so be it.

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