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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.


Enjoy a tasting and drinks from the best chefs the area has to offer!

Presented by

Join us Saturday, February 15, 6 p.m.
@ Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.



America’s intimate festival experience featuring cutting-edge music, the Midwest’s premier indie book fair, and readings and community happenings across downtown Iowa City.