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Maya Hawke sets the perfect melancholic fall mood with ‘MOSS’

Maya Hawke is no 'stranger' to fame. Even before her breakout role as Robin Buckley in "Stranger Things," she was known as a Hollywood nepotism baby. Now, she's made a name for herself as a double talent in acting and music.
Maya Hawke is no 'stranger' to fame. Even before her breakout role as Robin Buckley in "Stranger Things," she was known as a Hollywood nepotism baby. Now, she's made a name for herself as a double talent in acting and music.

Yes, Maya Hawke sings.

Although she’s best known for her role as Robin Buckley on Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Hawke has been making music since 2019, when she released two singles: “To Love a Boy” and “Stay Open.

In 2020, Hawke released her first album, “Blush.” The record was a mix of indie, folk and a bit  of pop, and I really enjoyed it. “Blush” received fairly good reviews on Metacritic, especially for being a debut album.

On Friday, Hawke released her second album, “MOSS.” It’s a mellow, indie record that displays Hawke’s talent for songwriting. The album is quite different from “Blush,” as it’s much more acoustic and minimalistic.

It has also become my soundtrack for this fall season.

The combination of Hawke’s wispy vocals, melodious guitar and pretty instrumentals is perfect. It’s a warm-sounding record that totally sets the mood for walking around campus on a brisk fall morning.

“MOSS” presents Hawke’s self-reflective and gloomy narrative style of songwriting. In an interview with FLOOD Magazine, Hawke revealed that the album is meant to portray everything she has learned about herself and life in recent years.

“Movement is cool, but moss is fucking beautiful,” Hawke said in the interview. “And there’s this idea that independence, movements, drive, and loneliness is how you make art, that being a rolling stone, being by yourself, is how you make art. The way a stone makes art is by sitting still and letting nature act upon it.”

“MOSS” begins with “Backup Plan,” a track that does a great job at establishing the overall mood of the album. Hawke’s vocals are accompanied by some simple guitar chords.

She sings of finding metaphorical aspects of herself she’s lost: “Your pencils, your dress socks / Your charger, your bike lock / Anything that’s not in your junk drawer / I wanna be anything you've lost that you might be lookin' for.”

Next is “Bloomed Into Blue,” which has heavier instrumentals than “Backup Plan.” Hawke sings about what can be interpreted as personal growth. She gives the listener a bit of a story here, and, at the end, includes some spoken word poetry.

On the endearing but bittersweet “Hiatus,” Hawke explores what she wants in a relationship. She acknowledges that her lover may cheat on her, but she’ll “forgive him when he does.” The song is very calming, and Hawke’s vocals are simply gorgeous.

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“Hiatus” is definitely one of my favorite tracks off “MOSS.” I can imagine myself listening to it on a rainy fall day.

Sweet Tooth,” which was released as a single for “MOSS,” picks up the pace. It sounds upbeat, but the lyrics are quite vulnerable. Hawke sings of tough love, whether it’s between her and her mother, a lover or a friend: “I'm grateful for everything you put me through / It's the only reason I'm any good to talk to / When I'm sick or suffering, I'll still call you / About my big, sore sweet tooth.”

Crazy Kid” features Will Graefe. I’m admittedly not a big fan of it for that reason alone. I  don’t like his solo verses or lines, even after listening to the song a few times. His harmonies with Hawke sound nice, but I would’ve preferred for Graefe to stay on backing vocals.

The next track is “Luna Moth,” which was also a single and another personal favorite of mine. It reminds me a lot of Phoebe Bridgers, which may be why I love it so much. It’s a sad song, as Hawke shares how negatively she views herself.

I have to say, I’ve listened to this track literally every day since it was released. It seriously made me ready for sweaters, pumpkin spice and scenic, late-night autumn drives.

South Elroy” is a bit faster, which I liked. Much like “Sweet Tooth,” the lyrics are gloomy despite the cheerful beat. The song takes a slow, almost disorienting shift toward the end, with Hawke repeating the lines, “Oh my God, I gotta slow down now.”

The next track, “Thérèse,” opens with that same line, “Oh my God, I gotta slow down,” but it’s a huge shift from “South Elroy.” Be warned, I’m about to go on a tangent about this song. It was released as a single, and as soon as I heard it, I was obsessed.

The imagery that Hawke uses in her lyrics is beautiful, and I love the instrumentals. Not to mention the music video for this track is stunning as well — a cinematic commentary on the sexualization of womens’ bodies. This song has been my number one streamed song for the past four weeks on Spotify.

Sticky Little Words” and “Over” are both playful-sounding tracks that include some beautiful guitar chords. “Over” is a bit slower-paced and soft until an array of instrumentals comes through halfway in the song, then dies down again for a more mellow ending.

Restless Moon” is a rather catchy track, and the only way I can describe it is the way FLOOD Magazine did: “a campfire sing-along.” I can genuinely picture listening to this song with my friends at an autumn bonfire.

Perhaps one of the saddest songs on “MOSS” is “Driver.” Here, Hawke gets personal about her parents’ relationship. Hawke’s parents, actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, have been divorced since she was young. “Driver” reveals that Hawke wishes she could’ve seen a real, unscripted romance between her mother and father.

Mermaid Bar” closes the album as Hawke encourages listeners to “Come for scallops, come to hear our song / Come if you're in awful, bad trouble / Come if you're certain you don't belong.” It’s a pretty song — not my favorite, but it suffices as a good closer.

It’s safe to say that I’ll be streaming “MOSS” for the remainder of this fall (and possibly the year). While the record is rather minimalistic, there’s no doubt Maya Hawke is a gifted singer and songwriter.

Hawke can act, sing and write. Is there anything she can’t do? Maybe it’s the nepotism baby magic, but boy, does she make it work.

Rating: 9/10