James Vincent McMorrow has the voice of an angel – and I don’t bandy that descriptor around lightly. His falsetto dips smoothly into the R&B register, and it’s impossible to dislike. By his own accord, he’s dropped the indie-folk sound he showed on Early in the Morning, and traded traditional folkie tropes (acoustic guitars, etc.) for a bevy of almost Four Tet-ish samples, grabbing influence from Bon Iver and James Blake. The result is plainly gorgeous throughout.
On the downside, though, there’s little here besides what he bites heavily off these influences. It’s a sophomore album, so we’ll cut him some slack, but it quite often sounds like these guys are the only music he’s ever heard before. Other times, he finds his own voice and balance, but the cover-esque parts overwhelm the fresh.
JVM “remember[s his] first love,” which may be his uplifting indie-folk past, but he’s since moved on – hedging his bets on James Blake. It sounds undeniably amazing, but sounds so similar to Blake, it’s as if McMorrow’s coattail-riding more than mixing that influence into his own style: [LISTEN].
McMorrow’s mandolin-sampling game is on par with early Four Tet, adding a new dimension to what I’d feared would be basically a James Blake cover album. The subtle, building grooves prove he’s not a one-borrowed-trick pony, but that the hype is well-earned – at least on this ethereal “dream;” [LISTEN].
Returning a bit to McMorrow’s For Emma roots atop the album opener’s heavy James Blake vibe, this track feel a bit more unique. Still, his crooner-fusion search for “someone to hold” doesn’t dig as lyrically deep as his inspiration; it’s beauty results in feeling just a tad contrived; [LISTEN].
Jim comes more into his own partially by taking that glorious voice soaring into stratospheric registers. If Bon Iver’s ST indulged its climaxes with a slightly poppier lean, this celebration of “peace” over “power” would be the “golden” result, which may even outlast this album; [LISTEN].
McMorrow’s revelations from “in the dark” veer deep into pop chord-progression territory, although it’s not necessarily regrettable. While this leaves the song’s every move predictable, that’s also due to the album’s tone set thus far. “All Points” would’ve made a solid opener or single; [LISTEN].
Everybody loves some nut-squeezing white boy R&B vocals, but let’s leave indecipherability to metal-heads. What is McMorrow singing about? Who knows, but let’s assume some sort of unrequited love trapezoid. Again, the Bon Iver flourishes work, but feel a tad too much like, well, Bon Iver: [LISTEN].
Just as the song title suggests, both McMorrow and myself are becoming broken records. In his quest to shed the “beard rock” (or Genericana) tag he was given on Early in the Morning, he admirably switched gears – but the resulting orchestral climaxes sound identical to a Bon Iver b-side; [LISTEN].
McMorrow brings out his most confrontational, lyrically aggressive side here and starts the track with a twinkly video game synth all his own. Unfortunately, while the low parts are interesting, every build mimics Bon Iver’s moves identically yet again – especially the percussion and horns; [LISTEN].
Finally, McMorrow’s back to his indie acoustic instrumentation. Using syncopation and a good, old-fashioned piano, he praises a wintry escapism for its ability to enjoy “the real,” instead of “the fake,” he starts to find himself again and give his primary influences for this album a rest; [LISTEN].
As the “warmth of the sun” fades to almost nothing, our indie-R&B troubadour aims to soothe us to sleep – this time mainly with the aid of sky-high harmonies and a little less falsetto in his melody. The Vernon touch is mild until the chill rock-out at the end, so it’s peacefully unique; [LISTEN].