One of the most underrated songwriters of our generation must be Kevin Morby. Gaining attention through his work with The Babies and Woods, Morby broke out on his own in 2013 with the album Harlem River. Now, half a decade later, he’s released his fourth studio LP, City Music, which perfectly exemplifies why more people should be listening to him.
It’s unarguable that we live in a nostalgic time. From “I love the [insert decade here]” conversations to music genres that all end in “_____ revival”, we’ve become fascinated by the past and the art it’s produced. What Kevin Morby’s music has done is encapsulate a perfect gesture towards our parent’s record collection and a big step towards the future of what songwriters should be doing.
City Music begins with an intimate setting in Come to Me Now. The synthesizer leads this opener and atmospheric guitars dance in the background while Morby croons “I can’t wait for that moon to shine, she’s my friend, always been, you can see it in my eyes” in the foreground. With all the modern instrumentation the track, as is the case with others on the album, still has a rural feel to it, almost country, a trend this writer has predicted before.
As the listener moves throughout the album, Morby wears his heart on his sleeve a little more. On Crybaby, he takes a look at himself in the mirror much like the album cover portrays. “Now I’m walking hand in hand, with myself and with my sin, all alone on a crowded street, I never was someone you’d want to meet, just to be a normal man” he sings.
1234 is the pop single on the City Music. There isn’t much to be said about the simplistic track other than it pays a humorous homage to punk music from the seventies.
Dry Your Eyes is where Morby’s personal fidelity and style takes on its own character. Every instrument sounds as though they’re playing in different rooms from one another in a house with the drums all the way down in the basement. Topped with Morby’s rainy day lyrics, this song became a quick favorite on the album; a humble song about simple living.
The title track from Kevin Morby’s new album arrives in the middle right when it’s needed. After some lovely ballads, he delivers a forward-moving jam with full instrumentation in the foreground of the listener’s ears. Morby woos the city he lives in through the almost seven-minute track and the song flows nicely into the following track Tin Can. Speaking in reference to his home in the aforementioned city, Morby finds his voice dancing between a plethora of guitars both sweet and gritty on a tune that fits in nicely with the rest of the loose theme on city living.
The back end of City Music simmers down to a similar point where it began. Night Time, is a sweet take on friendship as it exists within Morby’s ongoing theme of the city. The song relies on a timeless, three chord progression that, in any other lifetime, could’ve been performed by Louis Armstrong or Nancy Sinatra.
The closing song, Downtown’s Lights, is an attractive way to close an album about a city; by looking at it from the outside. “and the church bells were ringing, and the church bells they cried, and the church bells sang inside my heart, the night before she died”, Morby hums on about watching a city, but more or less from a rearview mirror. The way life goes, one is never present for the beginning or end but rather, right in the middle as the stories unwind, never to be knowingly finished. Kevin Morby’s take on urban life throughout the album bookends in a graceful way that leaves listener’s asking questions about his characters and chasing the same adventures.
As is the case with all our favorite writers, fans always demand to know why more people aren’t listening or reading. Press is a dicey game of chess and is usually the one to blame when artists aren’t appreciated properly. But as stated before, we’re never present for the beginning or end but rather, right in the middle. For Kevin Morby, he’s only getting started on a story that has only slightly unwound itself.
Click here to watch the video for City Music.
– By Mike Metcalf