From the opening vocal harmonies of “Heaven Only Knows,” the lead single off the brand new Bob Moses album Battle Lines, we know it’s time to settle in for a proper album odyssey from the Vancouver-hailing duo. It’s creepy and hypnotic, throwing up a preview of what’s to come in a cinematic ballad, which eventually recedes into the album’s title track “Battle Lines.” Just before the three minute mark it begins to feel like it could be a Black Keys song it’s so rock ‘n roll, but when the chorus comes back in it returns to its electronic roots that feels like it’s nestled right in the sweet spot of the bloghouse days around 2005-2008. To me, all the production-heavy songs on this album sound like a distilled version of some of the most vibrant inspiration from that era, used it to make an excessively moody indietronic alt-pop album. But you’ll see as you move through Battle Lines, eventually the sound strips down to reveal a more personal side of their songs.
This new iteration of the Bob Moses sound is at its most refined on “The Only Thing We Know,” another guitar-heavy song so spooky it’s fit for the Twin Peaks soundtrack, with an unusual hook that melodically and in the vocals sounds an awful lot like Things Change-era Grabbitz to me. There’s brighter moments, like on the next song “Nothing But You,” but even that has a rather industrial breakdown. “Enough to Believe” has a bubbly beat contrasted with the yearning in the vocals, there’s a minimalistic approach to the production of this particular song that has the unique function of leaving space for other sounds, like the rich, popping sound of woodblocks, warm strings, or a delicate bass guitar, to fill it periodically. Then they’ll leave that sonic space empty again and leave us wanting more, it’s positively enthralling.
Battle Lines starts to strip down at the beginning of “Listen To Me,” which gives us a bit of an energetic break three quarters of the way through the album. My album favorites are tied between the closer “Fallen From Your Arms” and “Selling Me Sympathy,” which opens with a synth that manages to be both snarling and serene, eventually becoming a fully piano-driven crooner fraught with angst – it’s glorious, albeit simple. The final song is even more simple and stripped down, creating this bubble of sonic intimacy that makes the last, warm and unassuming guitar solo feel so tactile and satisfying. This album is far more pleasant to listen to than the name lets on, so you can relax on your journey through Battle Lines.