It’s taken a few years for word of Elizabeth Moen’s remarkable vocal work and bluesy rock melodies to spread beyond her Midwestern roots, but Wherever You Aren’t is the ideal vehicle to carry her music farther than ever before, a strong set of 10 songs that serve as a versatile showcase for her talents.
If you’ve never heard Moen on the mic, picture the arresting vocal takes of Brittany Howard, Natalie Maines, and even a pinch of Stevie Nicks, all sounding effortless. Even straightforward lines feel important when sung by Moen, whose vocal delivery punches up details and imbues scenes with rich emotion. Some song structures exhibit this better than others, and she’s learned what works best on Wherever You Aren’t.
Moen’s vocal work demands your attention from the outset and doesn’t let go. The first few notes of opening track “Headgear” feature excellent guitar work, riffs that slowly coalesce to surround Moen’s vocal declarations of lessons learned and “real healing.” “Differently” is another striking song as Moen strives to do things “differently” in relationships going forward, a sentiment surrounded beautifully by the harmonies of Gemma Cohen and Caoimhe Barry.
The restrained, jangly guitar groove on “Ex’s House Party” is the perfect example of how Wherever You Aren’t’s best moments allow for Moen’s inimitable vocals to spill the vivid details of an intimate moment. Here, she describes the entangled emotions and small gestures of a personal exchange had in the song’s title. As Moen sings, “It’s hard to look you in the eye and know that this will never be more than what it is now,” it’s an authentic scene depicted by a voice that’s somehow both vulnerable and commanding.
Moen has plenty of nice moments to populate her resume — including touring in Kevin Morby’s live band — but Wherever You Aren’t should open more doors than ever. Or at least that’s the hope. Her voice will do the rest.
Elizabeth Moen’s Wherever You Aren’t is out Nov. 11.