June 14th, 2017 | Album reviews

City Music
Dead Oceans

When I first heard the colossal nine-minute song “Harlem River” by Kevin Morby—the title track to his 2013 debut release—I was instantly absorbed by the music. The song was long, winding, melodic, and downbeat; it built up this feeling of a summer of cool where one was invincible and anything was possible. It was the kind of song that calls you back to a time in your life that may or may not have existed. It evoked nostalgia in its purest form. Over the years Morby has time and again released albums as well as surprise singles that have done similar work with encapsulating feelings and emotions of society on a larger scale. (Note his recent single “Beautiful Strangers.”) 2017 finds Morby releasing his newest LP, City Music, and captures more of that gripping nostalgia he is known for, but also expands into different themes and territories. While the songs tap into more of the pain of nostalgia, this album plays with both sides of the coin. The songs aim to express the experiences Morby has come upon through all the cities he has ever loved, and the loneliness of the city and the connection it can bring as well. The album opens up with the heavy and slow keyboard based track “Come To Me Now” that (as usual) is driven by Morby’s deep and soulful vocals. At times the music and his voice quiver as he sings about the kind of love that is so deep that it can be overwhelming, something you chase that echoes through the rest of your life. The track “Aboard My Train” is an ode to the time in one’s life where you first get to explore the bigger picture of your little world—in this case riding the N.Y. subway system and adventuring through the city. The song gives elegy to the simplicity of childhood: even if there are major problems in your life, you are not always so cognizant of them yet, so there is still opportunity to try to find beauty. Just as quickly as the album builds you up it can bring you back down with songs like “Dry Your Eyes” a soulful blues type song with slow and simple harmonic guitar riffs and brush stick drumming. There are backup singers humming sorrowfully and the closing bridge of the song features a heart-wrenching guitar solo that slowly fades away as quickly as it came. Rounding out the amazing tracks on this album are the songs “Night Time,” which tells of the voyeuristic and lonely feeling of missed connections and emptiness that the city can evoke when you are looking out through your window, and the closing track “Downtown Lights” which is a downbeat narrative about losing a loved one. Par for the course: this album is a revelation musically and another reason to become an instant fan of this man’s music.

—Zachary Jensen