Post Tropical by James Vincent McMorrow (Vagrant, 2014. 42 minutes)
James Vincent McMorrow (b. 1983) is an Irish singer and songwriter. His debut album Early In The Morning was released in Ireland, February 2010, and in US/Europe in 2011 to widespread acclaim.
Suited for Winter
Despite what the title may indicate, McMorrow’s sophomore release Post Tropical is an album perfectly suited for the winter months. Lucky for McMorrow, much of the country has been under blankets of snow and vortexes of polar doom. There is something of the stark calm of winter that McMorrow adheres to inherently, something which begs us naturally to move forward after a much needed season of calm.
McMorrow, through his haunting falsetto voice, finds a way to communicate music in a way few can. He finds the ability to surround himself with amazing musicians, those that complement him nicely. Tightly wound vocals and harmonies alongside simplistic rhythms create pure and rich gold.
Many critics have hailed McMorrow as drawing upon the influences of James Blake or Bon Iver (Justin Vernon). To the aforementioned critics, I offer up some simple words: you are blatantly, emphatically, thoroughly, and utterly incorrect. McMorrow takes the art that Vernon and Blake try to undergo, and does it better and with more precision. JVM adds simple beats, sometimes R&B influenced, alongside luscious chords to create an atmosphere vast exceeding the Vernons and Blakes of the world.
Post Tropical was recorded in 2013 in the small desert town of Torneo, 55 miles south of El Paso in Texas. The studio is located on a pecan farm, and McMorrow found the location both relaxing and inspirational. He said “I think it’s kind of engrained in the record, more than any pinpointed thing. I can hear the hot bedded air in this part. You can [even] hear the birds in the pianos.”
The title track “Cavalier” is just that….cavalier. The serene, perfectly placed poetry of his lyrics against the subtle tones of snythesizer and 1970s style R&B bass make for an astounding opening track.
Speak until the dust
settles in the same specific place
Light refused to go
Drink it from a cast and iron plate
instead of cold milk
was offered unripe
Instead of silence
McMorrow’s lyricism seems to overwhelm me. Perhaps more to the point, the arrangements of the backing instruments and the mellowness of his voice perfectly complement his lyrics. Modern musicians tend to naturally incline themselves to easy lyrics and easy pop hooks. McMorrow strays away from the norm in order to find something better, something honest and pure.
Now, in the passed them again.
In the dawn then we hurry.
So, I have gathered to bring,
and I guess that it never.
Shower’s looking, now we’re peeking over, I was lucky.
In the calm the feather flip the so, of harlot’s. All the same.
And I hope I’m still in love of course, just doesn’t listen.
A halting/haunting blend of 808 drum machines, piano, and tight vocals ensnare on “Red Dust”. It all seems so familiar, yet something new. JVM manages to move his art forward while being true to his roots. He recognizes, I think, that his vocals are his best asset. Perhaps more to the point, because (nearly) every instrument is played by him on the album, everyone is of one mind. Quite literally.
To close, James Vincent McMorrow embodies everything that I believe music to be missing in much of today’s popular music. He has intentionality behind every breath, every beat, every lyric. Music is something that should be taken seriously if we are to entertain, but even more seriously if we are to affect lives. Post Tropical is assuredly James Vincent McMorrow’s best because he takes it seriously. He bares his soul, and what more can we ask of him? For such a young musician, I think we as an audience can, and should expect much from him in the future.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
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