James Vincent McMorrow – 'Post Tropical' album review

The Irish singer moves into new territory on a second album that recalls Bon Iver's recent explorations



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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

It’s almost too easy to lump Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow into the same rustic boat as Bon Iver’s equally wounded, bearded singer Justin Vernon. This is a comparison that is particularly pertinent on McMorrow’s latest release ‘Post Tropical’. A few years back, we saw Vernon tire of ‘just sitting down with a guitar’: the subsequent years found him singing hooks with Kanye West and exploring soul, soft-rock and R&B. Now it seems that McMorrow too has become tired of the straight folk sounds of his debut and moved swiftly into new sonic territory.

‘Post Tropical’ is billed as an album in which ‘nothing was written on guitar, and nothing was linear’ in an attempt to ‘give this record the feel and movement of [a] hip-hop record’. The growling, throaty vocals that occasionally reared their head on McMorrow’s debut album ‘Early in The Morning’ have completely dissipated in favour of a consistent falsetto, slathered in chorus effect like a strawberry submerged in sugar.

It makes for a decent record, steeped in tasteful sentimentality and experimental endeavour. In particular, opener ‘Cavalier’ effectively acknowledges McMorrow’s stylistic departure: he takes the R&B formula and twists it into something that resembles a dark, haunting and organic slow jam, packed with claps, slow bass and (almost) heartbreaking lyricism (‘I remember my first love…’). The rest of the album toys with different qualities and textures: pulsing 808 on ‘Red Dust’, a soaring horn section on ‘Gold’ and a hugely ethereal shower of mandolins on ‘The Lakes’.

So do those all-too-easy comparisons to Bon Iver undermine McMorrow’s music? Not particularly. Although ‘Post Tropical’ may appear a little lacklustre next to Vernon’s own folk-breakout album ‘Holocene’, ‘Post Tropical’ positively oozes with the pleasure of its own making, the sense of a musician exploring new ground.

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Listen to James Vincent McMorrow on Spotify

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Watch the video for 'Red Dust'

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