Debut album ‘Early in the Morning’ was a roaring success for Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow, a collection of beautifully crafted folk songs, written while staying in a cottage next to the Irish Sea, gave us an insight into the potential of this impressive newcomer. However, relocating to the United States border, for follow-up ‘Post Tropical’ (released by Believe Recordings), has provided us with an album so radically different from its debut it’s staggering.
The beard and rich falsetto remain but the banjos, acoustic guitars and Bon Iver comparisons are gone. Remarkably in their place are ten tracks built on a foundation of R&B. The simplicity of the debut has been replaced by electronica and quite magnificent layers of percussion. The production, combined with the artist’s incredible soulful voice, may leave fellow musical-tinkerer’s James Blake, Sampha and Deptford Goth looking nervously over their shoulders as this confident, well executed album appears on the horizon.
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For the majority of this unhurried album it works. Current single ‘Cavalier’ is epic. The artists vocal range is staggering and this slow burner builds to a crescendo of such noise and chaos you wonder how on earth this can be the same artist that gave us ‘Breaking Hearts’. ‘Gold’ works in a similar manner. Harp strings are delicately introduced before synths, digital horns and wonderful drums take the track to an altogether different level. It’s breathless music that oozes passion.
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It’s not all razzmatazz though. ‘Repeating’ momentarily takes us back to that cottage by the Irish Sea and the folk-inspired debut. Its simplicity and the more authentic instruments still fit perfectly within the confines of this soulful album, and are also a reminder as to how versatile McMorrow is. It builds slowly and is understated, without ever needing to reach the peeks of ‘Cavalier’.
‘Look Out’ also dazzles. A beautiful piano based track backed again by McMorrow’s wonderful voice. It feels effortless and hypnotic, and stands head and shoulders above the rest. Again, it’s the simplicity and sensuality of the production that grabs you. Why would you over complicate something as beautifully penned as this?
This is new territory for McMorrow and what he has achieved here is remarkable. If I had one criticism it would be that the album peters out towards its conclusion. Both ‘Outside Digging’ and ‘Glacier’ (which sounds as though it could have come from an Anthony and the Johnsons album) don’t have the same fervour as their predecessors. The latter in particular feels slightly out of place. Maybe I’m being too over critical though, as this artist has turned his musical output on its head. Credit where credit’s due.
The full track listing for James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘Post Tropical’ is as follows…
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Download: Look Out, Cavalier