Kevin Morby - City Music LP

(Dead Oceans, 2017)

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"Morby envisioned City Music as a “companion” piece to last year’s gospel-tinged folk record, Singing Saw, but influenced by Lou Reed and Patti Smith as opposed to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. City Music unfolds with a brisk energy, a distinct counterpoint to the soothing calm of last year’s breakthrough. It’s claustrophobic at times, filled with a bristling anxiety that erupts in key moments. On “Tin Can”, he sings about observing the city from afar as the music builds up momentum for two minutes before he gives a gentle coo as a cue for the song to explode into a raucous jam. He lets loose on “Aboard My Train”, where a winking homage to Dylan’s “Forever Young” flips into a roaring guitar solo, with a sense of playfulness and excitement that suits him well.

City Music marks Morby’s most ambitious album yet, as he expands his palette well beyond his previous work. In addition to the aforementioned sprawling jams, there are the haunting sounds of the nineteenth century organ that open “Come to Me Now”, the soulful blues and gospel backing choir of “Dry Your Eyes”, and the apocalyptic hum of “Pearly Gates”, wherein his character ponders judgment and damnation. His tribute to the allure of the city is a thoughtful homage to his musical idols built around a narrative that’s all too easy to relate to. When the record does stumble, it’s because he’s trying to juggle too many ideas at one time as opposed to a lack of effort. Mostly, City Music succeeds at displaying Morby’s strength as a rocker, and along with Singing Saw, the two together paint him as an artist truly coming into his own." - David Sackllah for Consequence of Sound