Album Review: Ruth B. – Moments in Between

[Downtown; 2021]

Returning with both a label change and new music that both consolidates and furthers her sound, singer-songwriter Ruth B. releases her sophomore album Moments In Between. If you are unfamiliar, Ruth was discovered in her teenage years after developing a following on Vine – an app whose closure is still mourned by many – and scored a hit single with “Lost Boy”. The track, consisting of sparse piano and Ruth’s clean and soulful vocals, managed to cut a swath through a pop landscape filled with maximalist production. Her debut album Safe Haven, with its piano-led pop sound, is a pleasant listen that feels wholly authentic to her, and while this follow-up still has the cosiness of a Ruth B. project, it is more varied in sound. Although it’s not necessarily reinventing anything, it still situates the singer in unexpected territory. Executive produced by Patrick Wimberly, Moments In Between is more grandiose, sweeping and mature than its predecessor, embodying facets of folk, country, indie pop and R&B.

Album opener “Princess Peach” is a sweeping pop-rock ballad that finds Ruth analysing whether she’s too overprotective of herself at the expense of not showing her true feelings towards a love interest. “I like to rescue myself / I’ve always been my own hero,” she admits over a chorus that pleasantly swells with piano, strings. This is the sonic lane that is both expected from and executed well by her – a quintessential Ruth B. opening that reminds listeners of her style.

However, things quickly change on “Holiday”, which is perkier and slightly idiosyncratic with its odd structure, bass guitar, distorted keyboards and the occasional cameo of a ding from a bell that punctuates the emotions of the song. The sentiment of the track is simple: love comes when you least expect it and changes your perspective on life completely (“Like I only see diamonds / Rare and true”). Her recent single “Situation” is a solid and calming R&B track that calls out what can often be the unpleasant ambiguity of love and that awkward question ‘so… what are we?’ With smooth piano, bass and a drum machine, the song maintains a consistent pace and is something you can submerge yourself in.

Around mid-way, Moments In Between enters a more guitar-focused, folky lane that is surprising but suits Ruth’s ethereal voice. Tracks such as “Sweet Chamomile” – a darker, folk-influenced track led by prominent guitar and a clomping beat – embodies the urgency of needing connection which feels a product of our era of social distancing. As she describes “Navigating on my own / Not the world I used to know…You are all I got / Need a minute, time to see you,” we are reminded to rely on loved ones during times of upheaval. Things become a bit more overt and sickly sweet on “Favourite” which is a simple and stripped-back acoustic romantic ballad, which, while not an unpleasant listen with its unapologetically warm vibe, is a bit lyrically saccharine (“He doesn’t have a favourite colour / He says “It’s too hard to choose” / But I’m in his favourite girl”). The following “Spaceship” is the type of comforting, dreamy folk style that embodies a similar vibe to artists like Ray LaMontagne, unfurling in a comforting tapestry of guitar, echoing vocals and organ that gives it an appropriately spacey feel. Although it treads similar romantic territory to the previous songs, the production and lyrics complement each other well as Ruth sings about the omnipresence of love no matter the location.

“Die Fast”, despite its title, is actually the most whimsical and fun track on the album, the beginning chords bringing to mind Regina Spektor’s iconic track “Fidelity” – and, similar to many Spektor songs, the production is fun, uplifting and quirky. “Picture perfect doesn’t last / Want to leave you in the past / My love for you just won’t die fast,” she sings, resigned about an ex who refuses to leave her head, encapsulating the typical yearnings we sometimes feel for those we’ve broken up with – but in an oddly uplifting way. For a complete contrast, she follows it with heartbreak highlight “Dirty Nikes”, a slow burning moody R&B track that dismantles the romantic lyrical themes of earlier tracks. With the refrain “I don’t hate you / I’ve just gotta learn to,” the song has Ruth analysing a soured relationship after finding an ex-partner’s pair of shoes. It’s a subtle track that keeps its fires calmly stoked although that doesn’t mean the anger is any less.

Moments In Between is a mature step forward for Ruth that allows her to expand her range of genres while refining those she already flourishes in. It’s an album that keeps a consistent energy, while Ruth’s dreamy vocals easily manoeuvre and glide over the varied production. It can sometimes feel a little unbalanced in terms of song order – it feels like there is an overall narrative that could be told with some tracklist sequence alterations – but ultimately that kind of represents the tumultuous experience of romance. This album, however, demonstrates a willingness to deviate from expectations while still keeping the essence of her sound, and hopefully Ruth will go sonically further on future projects.