“His music filled me with the urge to connect with the world,” Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith says of Emile Mosseri. She first heard his work while watching the 2019 film The Last Black Man In San Francisco; just minutes in, she paused it to look up who did the score and wrote to him immediately. “I love Emile’s ability to create melodies that feel magically scenic and familiar like they are reminding you of the innocence of loving life.” Those talents saw recognition in 2020 with an Oscar nomination for Mosseri’s original score to the film Minari. He was already a fan of Smith’s and became increasingly intrigued by her impressionistic process as they started to talk. “The music feels so spiritual and alive and made from the earth,” Mosseri says. “I think of her as the great conductor, summoning musical poetry from her orchestra of machines.” I Could Be Your Dog / I Could Be Your Moon, their two-part collaborative album, introduces an uncanny fusion of their sonics. Constructed using synthesizer, piano, electronics, and voice, this soft-focus dream world is lush, evocative, and fleeting. It finds two composers tuning their respective styles inward as an ode to mutual inspiration, a celebration of the human spirit and its will to surrender to the currents of life.
Early into their correspondence, Smith and Mosseri realized they were neighbors in Los Angeles and met up for a few hikes. Their conversations led to a musical exchange over email. The exercise became a sketch, the start of their first song together, “Log In Your Fire,” with Mosseri finding flourishes in Smith’s cathartic synth lines to intonate and harmonize alongside. Lyrically, it’s a beautiful, open-ended sentiment. “Being a log in someone’s fire, to me, means letting go, and surrendering to that feeling,” says Mosseri. From there, the pair composed a series of musical foundations, trading files from afar, nurturing the eventual expansion as the remote days of 2020 set in. Smith likens the collaborative experience to the exciting uncertainty of starting a garden, “doing what I can to facilitate growth while enjoying the process of being surprised by what will actually grow.”
In the summer of 2021, the duo finished work on the sequel, I Could Be Your Moon, expanding their musical language as the first part reached its September release. Songs from these more recent exchanges find them even more synced, forging into percussive and harmonic experiments, leaning further into their “unused musical muscles,” as Smith and Mosseri put it. A unified vocal presence emerged. “As the friendship grew I think we both learned how to support each other more and musically that was communicated through singing together,” adds Smith.
Now taken as a full album set, I Could Be Your Dog / I Could Be Your Moon moves fluidly from track to track, panning through textural vignettes. Two roughly 17-minute halves, the set evokes the bittersweet sense of something too bright or rare to last, a short-lived glimpse into a golden hour. “Moon In Your Eye” sends a choral refrain skyward; we stay behind, watching it haze away in the heavens. “Brush” bubbles with Smith’s characteristic wonder and curiosity, expressed in a flutter of horn-like sounds, leading into the album’s central expression, its titular track. Above pulsing harmonies, in his tender falsetto, Mosseri repeats variations of the mantra, “I don’t want to feel / lost anymore /I can’t make you what I am.” He says the idea they are reaching for is more abstract and universal, “It could mean I could be your friend / buddy, I could be someone / something else, I could transform, I could be your companion, etc. What I like about it is it could change based on what that means to you, or what the word dog means to you.”
The orchestral march of ‘oohs and ahhs’ on “Blink Twice” could register as both triumphant and tragic. “Moonweed,” strays closer to the latter, with low and slow piano keys guiding the alien hums of a starlit goodbye.
I Could Be Your Moon, the second installment and side B of the record, opens with the striking “Green To You.” Depicting a dream or a need for renewal — to be new in the eyes of another, all excitement of seeing and being seen as imagined, idealized versions of ourselves — the song unveils the duo’s newly fused voice. “I only want to be green to you,” they sing, as an organ phrase swirls underneath. There’s a wistful sense that bleeds into instrumental “Amber” and continues across “Standing In Your Light,” a piano ballad-turned-mini-symphony that traces over feelings of remorse (“I was distracted / overreacted… come to your senses”). “Shim Sham” starts woozily in anticipation before flipping on a drum break, becoming the collection’s energetic apex; their hums dance with the beat, wordless yet undoubtedly expressive. Once introduced, the percussion stays and syncopates for “Golden Cow,” another radiant duet that reads like a playful plea, or a reminder to their creative selves (“slow down / be careful now / you’ve done this one before”).
The record ends inside “Radio Replacement,” a swan song in the lineage of somber album outros; lyrically they reflect on past loves and the passage of time, personifying the music (“I would really love to be / your favorite melody / for a while”). There is a dreamy, elemental intention to this music, which Smith and Mosseri say came naturally, as they both embraced intuitive interplay throughout their creative back-and-forth. The stylistic threads of each composer are recognizable yet become more ambiguous as the album progresses, sewn into a singular vision. “I’m so grateful that my musical ideas could dance with hers with some grace and harmony,” says Mosseri. Smith adds that this experience helped her “remember that music can be a connecting layer of friendship, especially in a time when the usual ways were out of reach.”