Patrons of the Social Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue used to expect to run into Robyn Hitchcock rhyming his melons or singing to his pasta. But three years ago he moved back to England. Since then, Hitchcock has done an acoustic tour of the United States, and now he has released a stunning album featuring studio versions of songs debuted on that tour. Then, Hitchcock was accompanied only by violinist Debi Bonet, who begins Moss Elixir with her poignant intro to the delightful “Sinister But She Was Happy.” The rest of the record also shares the tour’s stripped-down sound. Drums only appear on three tracks—most notably the wonderfully upbeat “De Chirico Street”—and are provided by the Blue Aeroplanes’ Patch Hannan. Hitchcock’s got plenty of indie representation throughout Moss. “Beautiful Queen” begins uncannily like Trampoline’s “Green Jacket,” suggesting the possibility that Hitchcock borrowed a riff from local songwriter Pat Ferrise before leaving town, and Calvin Johnson, proprietor of K Records, produced the rootsy “Man With a Woman’s Shadow.” As usual, Hitchcock is at his wackiest lyrically; he’s irresistible (“it went Na-Ne-Ne-Ne-Na-Na on the devil’s radio”), he’s nonsensical (“I say Caroline, no need to spell it backwards, that’s Enilorac”), and he’s brilliant (“I kissed you by the clear, cold river/I felt like I was growing wings”). America’s loss is clearly his homeland’s gain.

—Tina Plottel

More from WCP