Album Review: Bella Moss — ‘Midwestern Daydreams’

Halfloves w/ Jim Swim & Bella Moss

Gabe's, Iowa City -- Saturday, April 29 at 8 p.m.

Debut albums are always about moving boxes, and Bella Moss’ debut album Midwestern Daydreams is full of them. Throughout, this seven-song set feels like a “summer’s surely over” album delivered here at the blustery start of spring.

“Change” is the not-so-secret word in these songs, and Bella Moss sings about loves losing their effect and friends leaving friends behind for brighter places. They are all strung together with sparse melodies delivered over a finger-picked acoustic guitar. For a record made amid this collective mess we share, Midwestern Daydreams remains musically mellow, gentle and, at times, even delicate. Moss’s lyrics, however, are anything but.

“Time For Change” stays true to the best of those last-night-of-summer songs. Somebody is always about to head out to California in them, and Moss can already imagine them there, singing, “I like to picture you / Sitting at a tiny hip cafe.” Those are the ones that you wind up missing the most, the ones you can already imagine being somewhere else.

On “Flower Beds,” Moss reveals a Phoebe Bridgers influence that permeates the whole of this debut. Complete with a sweeping strings section, Moss cleans the footprints off of her dashboard, then crosses her fingers behind her back.

The song “Slow Burn” features a strumming guitar and the most adventurous vocal harmonies that Moss builds on the album. Her voice finds its power in restraint and layered on top of itself until finally each line becomes simultaneously a whisper and its resounding echo. There’s a lot of wandering possibility in these songs, like on “Sudden Strangers” when Moss admits that she’s still grieving the end of a relationship that only might have been. Not all of the moving boxes can be full of things you need.

On the track, “Candle Lit,” Moss wants to hear the whispered secrets of an old love who’s delivering them to someone new. And she doesn’t seem scared by it. On “Out West,” Moss tries an old trick when trying to forget about a relationship that somehow fell away: laying the picture frame face down. Her I-wish-you-well line takes on double meaning in this broken new world that she’s been handed: “I hope you like it where you ran to / I hope the climate treats you well.”

Bella Moss has learned life lessons early, and exhibits full grown feelings across a serene and dream-filled debut collection.

This article was originally published in Little Village’s April 2023 issues.