Following a pair of angsty punk blasts with the Void Pacific Choir, Moby dipped back into what he does best: soulful electronic soundscapes. If the VPC albums were Moby's outward displays of anger and frustration surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt was his depressed and introverted response to the subsequent societal fallout. Despite the overwhelming melancholy that drenches the album, it remains a gorgeous collection that is mostly indebted to trip-hop and his pre-millennial output, with a few nods to the quieter moments on 2013's Innocents. The closest he comes to Play's most propulsive and upbeat moments is on "Like a Motherless Child," which features vocals by Raquel Rodriguez delivered as a rendition of the Southern black spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." Otherwise, EWBANH leans in the direction of Play highlights like "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" ("The Last of Goodbyes"), "My Weakness" ("The Ceremony of Innocence," "Falling Rain and Light"), and "Porcelain" ("The Tired and the Hurt," "Waste of Suns"). Such somber atmospherics reflect a mood and general air of uncertainty, casting a dour shadow over the majority of the album. "Welcome to Hard Times" rides a hypnotic groove, best experienced while enjoying a final drink before the world ends, while "The Sorrow Tree" pulses away, ramping up tension and anxiety. "The Middle Is Gone" -- a forlorn reflection on life and past mistakes -- is utterly hopeless, as Moby laments "I'll never be free/Always plagued by what I'll never be." Yet, beneath it all, there's a sense of warmth that offers a sliver of hope. The sweeping "This Wild Darkness" finds Moby searching for a reason to continue, following "The Middle Is Gone." As he intones over a lush backdrop, supporting vocalists sing "In this darkness/Please light my way." It's a beautiful way to usher out Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt, as if Moby is offering a comforting sonic hug. After an album of such confessional, bittersweet sadness, he needs one too.
Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt Review
by Neil Z. Yeung