March 28, 2005 12:00 PM

Moby Hotel

CRITIC’S CHOICE

As the one American pop star to emerge from the electronica movement in the ’90s—his breakthrough 1999 album Play went double platinum—Moby was the baldpated poster boy for a musical trend that never really took off in the States, even if everyone from Madonna to Britney dabbled in it. Now that he’s approaching 40 and well past his raver days, it would have seemed that the techno wizard was doomed to be nothing more than a nostalgic memory on VH1’s I Love the ’90s. However, Moby shows on Hotel that he’s not planning on checking out of the Relevancy Inn any time soon. Indeed, this disc finds Moby right in step with the neo-new-wave sound of bands like the Killers and Franz Ferdinand as well as the moody Brit pop of Coldplay and Keane. The anthemic, rock-edged “Beautiful” and the coolly atmospheric “Slipping Away” should have Chris Martin and company sweating, while the synth-pop dance track “Where You End,” with its melancholy melody and swirling keyboard textures, recalls classic New Order (whose 1982 song “Temptation” is covered here). Moby, using his plaintive voice effectively, sings lead on most tracks, while Laura Dawn provides an ethereal, Dido-esque presence on cuts such as the otherworldly love song “Dream About Me.” Moby continues his trademark technique of incorporating gospel vocals on the driving “Lift Me Up,” with its chantlike chorus, and the Bowie-esque “Raining Again.” But unlike in the past, those vocals do not come from samples. In fact, Moby does not use any samples on Hotel, proving once and for all that he is not just a terrific knob-twirler but a real, honest-to-goodness musician. He’s also a savvy marketer: This disc will be available at W hotels. That helps explain a supplemental second CD, Hotel: Ambient, that is full of the kind of insomniac-friendly instrumentals one might expect to come along with turndown service.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Beautiful”

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