to the


Album Review: Elizabeth Moen — That’s All I Wanted

Elizabeth Moen

That’s All I Wanted

On her sophomore output, That’s All I Wanted, Elizabeth Moen ditches the acoustic guitar for a full ensemble of electric guitars, bass and percussion (and one piano ballad). Her record embraces the hollows of Luke Tweedy’s refurbished barn-turned-recording-studio at Flat Black Studios — she transfigures folk into an experience in the totality of instruments. But her vocals never shy away from the driver’s seat.

There’s something to be said for the deftly muffled result of strumming with a thumb versus a guitar pick. Moen, as well as guitarists Joel Anderson and Dana Telsrow, highlight the musical restraint of this record to give way to Moen’s howls and croons and hushes. Drummer Justin LeDuc (and Mike Schulte, who features on “Bedside Table”) brushes jazz-inspired polyrhythms, while bassist Blake Shaw riffs off these meters.

Album Release Show with River Glen, Waldemar

Blue Moose — Saturday, May 13 at 8 p.m., $5

That’s All I Wanted opens with two percussion-less tracks: “Mars” sets the record with an ambling guitar lead, straddling blues progressions familiar to Moen’s debut album with pop-jangle sensibilities, while “Trouble” features limber Americana noodling. Both tracks set an airy atmosphere soon overwhelmed by Moen’s blue-eyed soul. Throughout That’s All I Wanted, Moen’s melismatic singing (accompanied by back-ups by Annalibera) has been brought to the forefront.

The album reveals a singer-songwriter haunted during the early hours and by the spectacle of intimacy. On “Trouble,” her duet with William Elliott Whitmore, Moen calls out, “Trouble — they can hear us, and it’s almost three / Trouble — they know I’m on my knees.” Together Moen and Whitmore sustain the climax of the song: “The trouble ain’t you — oh, the trouble is me.” But this further mystifies what the trouble may be.

The way in which Moen has handpicked Iowa musicians creates a soundscape that enlarges the felt moments in her vocal delivery. The lyrical content abides by the just-you-and-me canon of folk music, lending itself wholly to the ebbs and flow of the instruments backing her. Moen seems to be following a musical trajectory similar to that of Iowa roots and folk musicians, such as Pieta Brown — albeit striving for a glossier sound also derived from blues, R&B and jazz.

Pianist Michael Jarvey concludes the record on keys with the hymn-like “Snap,” where Moen makes the testament that this is an album for another. She vibratos, “No one’s sure who I’m singing to / You should know I’m singing for you.”

That’s All I Wanted is an album meant to be experienced between two people, such as a coffee shop in the wee hours where there’s only one customer and one barista in the room. It feels as though there’s a world between these two people — but the world is also looking in on them.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 220.

Add a comment

*Please complete all fields correctly



Posted by Little Village
Iowa City’s John Hopkins graduated from Gabe’s to become one metal’s most renowned sound engineers
For the past decade, legendary Iowa City citizen John Hopkins has been living on the road as a highly sought-after front-of-house tour sound engineer for some of the heaviest and...
Magician and author Nate Staniforth returns to Iowa on a magical mystery book tour
Staniforth is about to return to Iowa City’s Englert Theatre on Feb. 3. The impetus is Here Is Real Magic, the book, released on Jan. 16, that chronicles his journey...
Posted by Kembrew McLeod
Revisiting the Louds, America’s first reality TV family
Forty-five years ago -- on Jan. 11, 1973 -- the first reality series premiered on PBS, and television would never be the same. An American Family became an immediate pop...