Bob Moses – Battle Lines: Vocal House Music That Moves

by amy – April 3, 2019 in Music

Battle Lines is the 2nd studio album from the electronic dance music duo, Bob Moses. At once captivating and relaxed, their brand of vocal-driven house music moves me with the genuine feeling behind it. Their synergy as musicians blossoms on this album.

The duo is composed of singer Tom Howie and producer Jimmy Vallance, two Vancouver-born guys who knew each other in school and started with similar tastes in music but never worked together until they crossed paths years later in a Lowe’s parking lot in NY. This was after Howie had studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston for a year and Vallance had already made something of a professional name for himself in trance and progressive house music. Not long after their reacquaintance, they moved in together and began making music as a duo. (Wikipedia)

The compelling element of Bob Moses is surely Howie’s voice and the melodies he chooses, both of which are perfectly lovely and somehow pure, laden with innocence and often melancholy. His delivery is simultaneously genuine and sensual; his choruses reach out and grab you much like a particularly good vocal hook that you find sometimes in trance music. Yearning, regret, bitterness, desire – the plaintive tone of this album is the magnetic force for me.

Life’s so cold and so sweet
Still you’re selling me sympathy
Bought your story but now I see
All you ever wanted was a piece of me
A fool to follow, a lie to lead
Words I swallow down sicken me
You’re not giving me what I need
‘Cause all you ever wanted was a piece of me

– “Selling Me Sympathy”

Their lyrics are not complex, but they’re fairly deep for house music. Words such as the ones above come alive with feeling when one hears the melody of the track which conveys regret and bitterness – this chorus is beautiful and highly singalongable.

Bob Moses at work. Photo credit: Bob Moses (posted to their Facebook page).

Behind Howie’s vocals lies the strength of Vallance’s production. His progressions, textures, and punchy rhythms breathe and build on each other in a minimal yet rich soundscape. These sounds are a vehicle that Howie’s voice doesn’t just ride on but seems to glide just above. The two fit together like a glove. Song structures are fairly standard but do not detract from their quality. The duo stick to traditional radio-format length for the tracks as well as a 4/4 beat and other standards of house music: a gradual buildup of sound layers, drops, and an intro-verse-chorus arrangement.

They’ve made an album that feels thoughtfully conceived and well-worked: this is a quality 48-minute collection of songs that flow naturally from one to the next. Out of ten tracks, I was surprised to find myself touched by six of them on first listen, and what’s more, some of the best tracks are found toward the end. My first time letting this album play through, I was pleasantly surprised with how many times I noted to myself, “and here’s another great track!”

A few highlight tracks: Back Down, The Only Thing We Know, Nothing But You, Selling Me Sympathy, and Fallen From Your Arms.

The only potential drawback to this album is a short lifespan. It’s recommended not to overplay this album, as repeated listens won’t necessarily render more enjoyment than the first, second or third time. Most tracks are good but a couple are forgettable.

Overall, this is a great album and I’m looking forward to seeing what this magnetic duo comes out with next.