“DD Review: Kevin Morby – City Music.”

Score: 9/10


Despite the fact that this entity is associated in any way with Vinyl Me, Please, I’ve taken it upon myself to at least try to see the good in it and give it a full once-over — after all, this Mr. Morby is definitely somewhat of a DD darling of sorts. And yeah, by the way, I don’t listen to stuff on vinyl… it’s nothing against the medium but when you get into charging $22 for an analog pressing of a digital master, or a video game soundtrack, I hate to break it to you, but your attempt to be categorically superior to other people, rather than commune with them through music, is very much exposed. I constantly browbeat Vinyl Me, Please over Facebook (while mind you always getting their feeds though never having once “Like”’d them or their page) and yet they still exist, much to my chagrin. But sugar, I’m persistent.
And good ga-ga do I listen to a lot of music… it’s hard to even remember vividly the album I acclaimed one year ago Singing Saw (awesome title obviously) but I remember it being faintly rockabilly, vaguely Califone-y (his label mates), original and unspiteful, unstrained — that’s how I’d describe it. Much my surprise, then, when City Music opener “Come to Me Now” opens theremin and string-heavy (hence the “city” aspects, I suppose) and Morby’s vocal enters markedly full of purpose. A worthy comparison would in fact be “The Crane Wife pt. 3” — another excellent, newly crisped (sorry) album opener following an excellent if a bit scattered prior album. “Come to Me Now” waxes and wanes like your average indie song (I’m not going to say “pop,” it is a bit folky for the record) and one thing that strikes me as noteworthily going on is sadness — bona fide sadness. It is in fact perhaps even more pronounced than such a thing would be in say Sun Kil Moon or Songs: Ohio, entities which per their very DNA are SUPPOSED to be sad and exemplify proper melancholy (well James Molina always sounded so close to veritable MADNESS that in his case it’s largely excusable). Does Morby have the melodic sense of a Mark Kozelek? It’s a valid question — they’re not quite apples and oranges, but as on Singing Saw the instrumentation on the Morby is more lush, utilitarian of far fewer guitar arpeggios, as well as even guitar at all.
Right away in “Crybaby” I’m stupefied by the chord progression, which is the totally jazzy like Grateful Dead/Phish type thing (it’s a tonic into a minor seventh major and then a subdominant minor, to be specific) that you certainly never hear in pop these days, although stylistically this song is poppier, somewhat like Califone’s “Frosted Tips” or a softer Dinosaur Jr. The song is called “Crybaby,” one word, but in the chorus he keeps repeating “Come on cry / Cry baby” after a complete bath of self-scorn and world scorn in the verses: “I never was someone that I liked… I never was you want to meet”, et. al. In case you can’t already tell, I’m impressed with this sh**.
The third song is called “1234” and… wow, this is gonna be a tough pill for us 30-somethings to swallow in general, I think (I’m assuming Morby is still in his 20’s)… musically it’s simple to the point of reductiveness without any question very much like Spoon’s awful 2015 single “TV Set,” and I would be disgusted, nay, horrified, at its banal simplicity if not for its featuring of the line “You know I’d walk a mile just to die” (how’s that for a jaded mindset — the talk of the will to die is the one thing comforting me). Ahem. It is a bit disconcerting, but not to an egregious extent. Let’s see what’s next.
“Aboard My Train” has him sounding classically Dylan-like, basically approximating New Morning with a little more kick drum, and… I’m enthralled. This is Morby’s career statement we’re witnessing here. “Dry Your Eyes” takes the tempo down to a drastic extent, which I suppose is sort of excused by the senseless boisterousness of “1234.” Upon first, listen “Dry Your Eyes” disconcerts for its bareness, as if he’s not really trying here, but the hypnotic, natural efficacy of the song has a surprising way of emerging half way through, like Morby were sure all along of his vision to wanting to employ this little almost nursery rhyme-like mantras. The lead-in from spoken word track “Flannery” to the titled track is utterly astonishing. I have little or no doubt at this that we are witnessing before us in 2017 the best year in the history of music.

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