James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S always interesting when an artist does something to shake up people’s perceptions of themselves, especially early in a career.
James Vincent McMorrow has done just that with his sophomore release, Post Tropical, which marks quite a departure from the classic folk sound that got him noticed on Early In The Morning.
Having become inspired by hip-hop, McMorrow took himself off to a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border – which the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House and Animal Collective have all called home at one point – and recorded the tracks that were to maake up the new record.
Out went some of the more traditionally recognised folk elements, replaced instead by firmer beat structures and some synth/electronic arrangements. The album that ensues isn’t hip-hop but you can see where its influence creeps in.
On a track like All Points, for example, there’s an urgency to the beats that enhances the haunted, fragile, falsetto vocal that remains a McMorrow trademark, while Gold also employs subtle beat arrangements here and there, as well as an electronic loop that creates an insistent, appealing melody, and nicely layered vocals.
On both songs, there’s a slow-burning beauty that rewards the patient listener. McMorrow’s songs may not always arrive with the type of immediacy that the mainstream more commonly requires, but they grow on you and almost demand several listens to properly get.
Another highlight, Red Dust, thrives on its mix of atmospheric beats, sombre piano chords and achingly fragile vocals, while album opener and former single Cavalier slowly (sometimes very slowly) ushers in the various elements that eventually make it so quietly intoxicating.
Later on, title track Post Tropical works well on its stirring electronic elements, vocal harmonies and haunted vocals, before wrapping up with a nice little guitar-backed finale around the three minute mark, and Glacier is impossibly stark, sombre and yet beguiling.
McMorrow says of the album himself: “For me, Post Tropical evokes a style of music without you having a clue what it sounds like. It’s warm and familiar, but there’s something there that’s maybe not quite what you think it is. I just wanted to make the most beautiful thing I could imagine.”
It’s a fitting statement that pretty effectively sums up what you can expect barring only the odd moment that tests your patience more than it delivers.
Download picks: Red Dust, All Points, Gold, Post Tropical