In Moby’s own words, his ninth studio album, Wait for Me, is “more mournful” than many of his previous efforts. And sure enough, the new disc nearly resurrects the sepia-toned pathos of 1999’s Play, more or less pretending the glam Bowie-isms of 2005’s Hotel and club-friendly jams of 2008’s Last Night never existed.
Cinematic orchestra swells, quiet guitars and wailing vocalists—ranging from the grizzled scratchy-vinyl bluesman of “Study War” to the benevolent diva of “Pale Horses”—dominate. Electronic flourishes are just as somber: The minimal beats and classical piano of “Isolate” conjure the dank darkness of Massive Attack, while back-masked guitars and downtrodden trip-hop drive the instrumental “Shot in the Back of the Head.”
As that song’s title implies, the album’s subject matter tends toward the hopeless and lonely—and that’s where Wait for Me falters. Play at least had moments of levity (“South Side,” “Body Rock”) to lighten its mood; Wait for Me is so mired in melancholy, it’s difficult to digest. Its sorrow pushes listeners away—and the album becomes a tedious, emotionally draining trudge instead of a collection inspiring empathy.