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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Maya Hawke releases ‘MOSS’ just in time for the season change

Maya Hawke displays her versatile career as both a successful actress and songwriter with the release of her sophomore album “MOSS.”
The album cover art for “MOSS,” Maya Hawke’s latest release. (Photo courtesy of Spotify)

The “Stranger Things” cast has proven themselves to be more than just actors. Maya Hawke joins her co-star Joe Keery, who recently released his album “DECIDE,” to showcase her musical talents in her new album “MOSS.” As the daughter of the “Kill Bill” actress Uma Thurman and “Training Day” actor Ethan Hawke, Hawke has strategically divided her time between the screen and the studio. She released her debut album “Blush” in 2020, and while it offered some alternative experimentation, her sophomore release is a folky indie pop album that transports listeners to an October day when the leaves are falling and the air is crisp.

“MOSS” forgoes the traditional song structure of verse/chorus/bridge to tell a continuous story within each track. Listening to this album for the first time, I felt like Hawke was sitting next to me with her guitar, serenading me as though we were old friends. Each track depicts intimate scenarios from Hawke’s life such as her parents’ divorce, unrequited love and growing up. This work is a true deep dive into Hawke’s psyche and emotions, offering a refreshing approach to songwriting. 

The opener “Backup Plan” begins by rattling off random items: “Your pencils, your dress socks, your charger, your bike lock” which creates a sense of domesticity and peacefulness at the start. However, this feeling is premature; the chorus hits with “I wanna be anything you’ve lost that you might be lookin’ for,” encapsulating Hawke’s longingness to be accepted. Hawke mentioned that being her true self was always a naive backup plan that failed her even in the most minuscule ways. This song weaves the album-long thread of seemingly carefree tunes that morph into a melancholic track. 

I was hooked by the album’s single “Sweet Tooth,” which features upbeat guitar strumming and a captivating melody. With layered harmonies and a keyboard riff, the song is catchier and more light-hearted than the rest of the album. Similar in sound is “South Elroy,” a piano-driven song that has a higher tempo. These two tracks exemplify Hawke’s ability to produce a cohesive album that develops her early sound as an artist. While the entire album has a harmonious folklore vibe, the lack of deviation creates a sense of familiarity and comfort in a top to bottom listen. 

“MOSS” is a self-reflecting album that tackles the harsh reality of being an adult while reminiscing on a childhood she is still healing from. Songs such as “Luna Moth” poetically describe self-acceptance, with Hawke boldly proclaiming, “I don’t need anyone to hurt me, I can do that myself” against the sound of guitar picking in the background and a soprano melody. Hawke comes to this defining conclusion as a result of the insignificant mistake of stepping on a luna moth. 

Hawke gets vulnerable in “Driver” in which she sings about her parents’ divorce. “I’d give everything I’ll ever have to see them happy kissin’ just like that” she croons, a reflection of a life she so desperately craves but cannot have because of her parents’ separation. She has a knack for making profound proclamations that are swept over by infectious melodies, so you only hear them when you truly listen. Because of this, “MOSS” is an album that is perfect for a casual listener but also exceedingly enjoyable for those looking to feel deeply

While most of the tracks are heavy in lyricism, the album closes with “Mermaid Bar,” the allegorical story of a girl who survives a cliff jump. Using mostly sea-related language, this track sounds like it could be from “The Little Mermaid,” bringing back the childlike aura that we heard at the opening. The hopeful harmonies and electric guitar are a great way to wrap up a sentimental album. 

Reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s “folklore,” “MOSS” is the type of album that I can put on while studying, on a plane ride or when walking to class. The rhythmic melodies and smooth lyrics make this album perfect for a fall listen. The songs are captivating, and Hawke’s vocals and backing instrumentals are alluring and charming. I can say with confidence that this will be an album that resides on my playlist for the rest of fall; I recommend it to anyone willing to listen.

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