sun 26/05/2019

CD: James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical | reviews, news & interviews

CD: James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical

CD: James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical

Irish songwriter gets experimental on second album

"Intimate, strange and completely enthralling": James Vincent McMorrow's 'Post Tropical'

It was almost a decade ago, when that Mercury-winning Antony and the Johnsons album was everywhere, that I learned that there was no such thing as critical consensus. The writers who raved about the album were correct in that Antony Hegarty’s voice gave me chills, but they were the chills of a morning shower with a boiler malfunction rather than of rapture. Post Tropical, the second album from James Vincent McMorrow has received similar reviews and performs in what, from the opening bars of single “Cavalier”, could almost be the same voice. But as the song, and the album, starts softly to expand from these stripped-back beginnings - an echo here, a handclap there and a sudden, triumphant burst of drums and orchestration - it seems that the Irish songwriter’s music is less of an acquired taste.

McMorrow’s otherworldly falsetto is not entirely unfamiliar: last year’s cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” soundtracked a couple of adverts, although his simple piano-and-vocal take is a world away from some of the more experimental songwriting he showcases on Post Tropical. It is, however, an extraordinary instrument, which manages to sound completely alien while possessed of an inviting warmth that Hegarty, for example, was never able to grab me with. Although the arrangements and melodies help, it is the voice more than anything else that makes tracks like “Cavalier” and “Look Out” sound like dreaming: they capture the muddled moments between wakefulness and sleep, the semi-lucid experience of the REM cycle and the ease with which those pictures slip away on awakening.

But more than anything, Post Tropical is a deeply romantic record. McMorrow’s singing style means that its images aren’t always clear, but rather float towards the listener in bursts - “I need someone to love, I need someone to hold” - over snatches of dreamy, seemingly familiar melodies (“Gold”, “Repeating”) and hip-hop-inspired beats as filtered through an alt.folk lens (“Red Dust”). The effect is something intimate and strange, but completely enthralling.

Overleaf: watch the "Cavalier" video

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