Wow, we’re really, really getting to know Kevin Morby pretty well these days, in more ways than one, and generally it’s pretty welcome but with this new album so saturated with his lone signature, nervous, good-ol’-boy vocal drawl it’s sort of starting to remind me of having to hang out with that one cousin all weekend, and you’ve already gone to the pool, played wiffle ball and watched Billy Madison three times and now it’s Sunday night, your uncle is late picking him up and your mom is making chicken nuggets and frozen fries with nothing but some cheap, imitation orange juice to drink.
Speaking of structure, such a pillar marks one particular strength of Oh My God, whose opening title track has a lameness, like the piano intro to Mellon Collie (which was also a title track, interestingly enough), that oddly works to the album’s advantage, in a way. “No Halo” barks in as an obvious sort of plaintive foil to Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring for My Halo which capped off this waning decade, these two men being remarkably similar musicians, by and large. “No Halo” trots along over eighth note claps which mark its primary percussion and tells a narrative of the joys of youth, which made it remind me of a version of The Eels with perhaps a slightly more organic textural infrastructure. But then, Kevin Morby is pretty dang organic, typically, in true Dead Oceans form.
“Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild” is spooky, esoteric and probably just mournful enough to justify its title. Then, with “OMG Rock n Roll,” worthily the best song on the album, Morby establishes what to me is a pretty significant structural wrinkle of departing from a theme briefly and then revisiting it in faster, more visceral form, like the “reprises” that show up on certain other albums. This track then races along with a sort of easy abandon, deeply steeped in gospel and Chuck Berry and all those astute influences that some indie rockers seem to be able to handle pretty well. That is to say, it’s more affable, if not to say necessarily “effeminate,” than The Rolling Stones.
I call Morby “affable” here which of course might be a questionable term, given how soft and melancholy this album certainly is, on the whole. But one thing we get with Morby is definitely honesty, wound up with a certain emotional integrity that can make up for the fact that at this current time he’s not an artist with an overwhelming WEALTH of different strategies.