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Album Review: Kentucky Derby by The Moss

Incredibly comfortable from the very first listen, the tones are familiar and the structure of each song gives you something to latch on to. Each song gave me summer sunset daydream vibes.

By Mac Wright

Horticulture, baby. That’s what’s on the agenda today. The Moss is a four-piece band that’s been around since 2015, with releases dating back to 2018 (although their Instagram shows that they were releasing music as early as October of 2015.) Fronted by The Voice alum Tyke James, their Bandcamp bio says: “Nobody hates moss, nobody loves moss, and that is why we are the moss. Maybe we are just some neutral music playing in the background of a taco truck.” Their album Kentucky Derby was released April 23rd of 2021, and is definitely not neutral taco truck music. Kentucky Derby is genuinely a great Alternative record.

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From the opener to the final track, it keeps you entertained and it’s the kind of record I would listen to even if I hadn’t been asked to review it. It’s the kind of record that makes you want to see the band live. It’s the kind of record that makes you happy. Lyrically, it’s visual, comfortable, and gives you some fun new ways to think about your feelings. I would also describe it as a fun mix of traditional Alternative Rock and beach-influenced punk. The instrumentation provides a nice bed for James’ incredible vocals to be showcased on. Honestly, it’s everything you’d want out of a record. 

Tyke James from The Moss
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The album was incredibly comfortable from the very first listen. The tones are familiar, the structure of each song gives you something to latch on to and the songs are honest and well written, especially for the genre. Each song gave me summer sunset daydream vibes. And then of course there’s James’ vocals. I mean, they sell and seal the whole thing. They keep you listening because they are just as commanding and charismatic as his hair. The grit and growls are enough to make anyone swoon. I had several favorite moments across the album, including the vocal performance in “Storm Cloud Baby.” This brought out some incredible Roger Waters similarities that totally took me by surprise. The falsettos in “Heartbreaker” and “Fiftyshadesofhay” showed the range that James has at his disposal and probably goes underused. Overall, each song had something significant to say and I loved listening to them all. 

Let’s go back to horticulture. “Nobody hates moss, nobody loves moss, and that is why we are the moss.” As great as the record is, like moss, I believe they’re playing it safe. First and foremost, I believe they could work to make their arrangements more interesting. They have two guitars, yet there are quite a few times where both guitars are doing the same thing. Put your guitars to work. James’ voice can carry the record, but that doesn’t mean it should. There’s more support rather than interaction coming from the rest of the band.

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Second, the Roger Waters rawness that I heard (and felt) in Tyke’s vocals made me yearn for something more cinematic. There’s more that can be done to tell the story. “The Moss” is a great name, but I believe they are selling themselves short if their ultimate goal is to be what nobody loves and nobody hates. I believe they can be so much more than that if they chose to take some more risks and create something that makes a statement.

Once again, overall, a great record. I easily got their songs stuck in my head, and felt like I wanted to keep listening. This band is SOLID. Their song and groove writing is spot on. Now that they know what they can do, I believe they should push and find out if there’s something more. I’m pretty sure there is. Kentucky Derby is timeless and wonderful. Make sure to follow The Moss on Instagram. You can listen to my favorite track “Fiftyshadesofhay” below.

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