It’s really hard for me to judge Moruza objectively. Moruza (which is named after its primary songwriter, Leslie Moruza Dripps) plays quirky, upbeat piano songs that have equal parts pop glee and serious contemplation. The fact that both moods often occur in the same song, and that Moruza has a penchant for both strings and nonsense syllables makes it nigh on impossible to not compare Moruza to Regina Spektor and judge it lacking.
It’s really kind of annoying, because I swore I was not going to compare the two. But the more I listen to Moruza’s self-titled album, the less I can stop myself. “Bad Man” has quirky piano rhythms similar to Spektor. “If It’s You” has the minor/major back-and-forth that makes me think strongly of the world’s most huggable Russian.
It’s not that these songs are bad; it’s hard to imitate Spektor. And Moruza takes great steps to differentiate herself; the band here is composed of a double bassist, a drummer and a violinist. This album really should be closer to a jazzy experience than it is, as the only heavily jazz track in the almost-not-canonical extra point “Wierd Little Person.” The back half of this album is less like Spektor and more of her own personality, which is a dainty Americana sound. But by the time I get to “Richmond” (song ten), the comparisons are entrenched, and it’s hard to separate out expectations from realities.
Even by this point in the review it’s hard to shake the spectre of Spektor. But here it is: Leslie Moruza Dripps has a solid alto voice and a solid command of songwriting. About half her songs are in a poppy idiom, which is not where her strength lies. The back half of this album, which consists more of Americana and jazz tracks, feels much more comfortable and unique to Moruza. The use of strings throughout is a highlight.”Little Bird” and “Richmond” are the standout tracks here, as they establish a unique voice in the folk world. I would like to see her lean more in this direction on her next album, as the more folk-and-jazz-tinged tracks just work better.
Moruza put together a solid debut effort with their self-titled release. I think that with more experience and more songwriting, this will become a very interesting band. Right now, this is a RIYL Regina Spektor-style piano pop.