Kevin Morby

City Music

Written by: MIN on 21/06/2017 16:42:06

You’d have to go back no longer than a few months to find a review of Kevin Morby’s breakthrough album, ”Singing Saw”, here on Now, only a year after the release of said album, Morby is back with his fourth solo record, “City Music”. Riding off the success and creativity of its predecessor, the making of “City Music” looks like a pretty good call on paper, and granted, several songs off the record have the same laid back, unpretentiousness that I found so endearing on “Singing Saw”. But unfortunately, the feeling and gorgeous songwriting don’t last all the way through Morby’s newest LP.

Whereas the setting of “Singing Saw” was primarily outside America’s big cities, “City Music” feels like a journey away from the outskirts and into Metropolis. Album-opener “Come to Me Now” promises a smooth, dark ride towards the Big Apple through its use of ominous keyboards and effects from what I believe to be a mellotron. On the song, Morby longs for places that aren’t this “ugly little town”, and on the album’s fourth track, “Aboard My Train”, it feels like he has a sudden revelation; halfway through its duration, the song picks up the pace and changes character, just like an actual train increasing its speed towards the state’s capital. Morby whips out a rocking guitar solo just as he reaches the realization that although some friends change and others don’t, the people he knows will stay with him wherever he goes — so why not leave this ugly little town? Then, the record unfortunately takes a turn for the worse.

The remainder of the LP focuses a lot on the isolation and loneliness of being in a big city, despite the millions of people living there — people who, more often than not, feel just as lonely and isolated as Morby himself. Surely, it’s an important topic, but unfortunately the songs sometimes reach a point where they feel more hollow than the feelings they’re trying to reflect. “Night Time” has a nice melody in the same predictable manner that a previous Morby song, “Destroyer” off “Singing Saw”, has, but unfortunately the melody keeps dragging on for six minutes without ever throwing a curveball in the way that “Destroyer” does, resulting in a dull song that never sparks the kind of magic Morby’s previous highlights have done. “Caught in My Eye”, too, commits the felony of being simply too boring for its own good.

The album’s title track is a mesmerizing rocker that, despite overstaying its welcome by a minute or two, sees the band join forces and lock into a groove that’ll make you want to move your feet downtown due to its excellent interplay between guitar and the rhythm section. It doesn’t feature the spontaneous excursions that the previous album’s title track did, but it’s still a nice change of pace that highlights Morby’s skills as a musician. Furthermore, the last two tracks off “City Music” luckily make you forget all about the issues you might’ve had with some of the other tracks through the record, as they’re both stellar. “Pearly Gates” has a chorus that’ll make you swoon as the drums change pace and let in a choir in the back, while “Downtown’s Lights” is as gentle and low-key as one prefers to hear Morby sing. It’s the perfect, quiet closer on an album that features more guitar rock than the well-orchestrated folk songs previously exhibited.

While I applaud Morby for making a change in sound (although not drastically), the record honestly feels a little rushed. It’s not as thought-through as I’d hoped for, and although it shines on several occasions, I can’t help but feel just a little disappointed. The topics found through the record will appeal to many people, but I personally long for the fleshed-out details of Morby’s suburban adventures compared to this. It’s still a great record that I’d have no trouble putting on, but it’s not one that I’ll revisit over and over the way I did with “Singing Saw”. Ultimately, “City Music” rarely takes me by surprise, but I guess that sometimes that’s okay.


Download: Come to Me Now, Aboard My Train, Pearly Gates, Downtown’s Lights
For the fans of: Brian Fallon, The Tallest Man on Earth, Bob Dylan, The Babies, Jake Bugg
Listen: Facebook

Release date 16.06.2017
Dead Oceans

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