James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
When you’ve got a voice like James Vincent McMorrow, it’s hard to make bad music, so it’s unsurprising that his second album, Post Tropical, is a particularly spectacular affair. McMorrow’s falsetto vocals are as hauntingly beautiful as in his debut 2010 album Early in The Morning, but influences of soul, R&B and hip hop add another carefully crafted dimension, transforming his music from that of more generic folk to something that stretches across many genres.
“Red Dust” is a perfect example; McMorrow sings in a choir-like falsetto, accompanied by catchy, deconstructed electronic drumbeats in the background which give the track an R&B feel. It’s is dreamlike, and you almost feel like you need to be brought back down to earth after listening to the ending lyrics: “I need someone to love, I need someone to hold”. McMorrow’s new sound has been compared to James Blake; however, Post Tropical is so much more than anything Blake could produce, mainly due to McMorrow’s ghostly voice that’s impossible to erase from your mind after listening to any of tracks on the album.
To me, “Cavalier” is the best song on the album, and the sort of track that musicians have to produce many albums to achieve, but for McMorrow it just seems to come naturally. Whispery vocals over electronic keys and handclaps are followed by a brash earthiness composed of soaring symbols and organ sounds. Post Tropical is a poetic collection of music. McMorrow’s well-crafted lyrics are plagued with longing, desire and hope, but also desperation and the mourning of past lovers, such as ‘I remember my first love’ in “Cavalier” and ‘when the sun comes, dry tears from my eyes’, in “Look Out”.
The opening minute of “Gold” is reminiscent of the folk sound of Early in the Morning, but layers of horns, guitars and snares surrounding the vocals give it a more soulful, pop sound. In contrast, “The Lakes” opens with a dreamy harp, which is then combined with a ’90s hip hop beat. The two work surprisingly well together.
When asked about Post Tropical, McMorrow told how ‘the guiding light for the record was to genuinely make something that I wanted to listen to’. Well, he’s not alone. The album may be significantly different to Early in the Morning, but it’s so refreshing to hear that it cannot be anything but warmly welcomed by fans of his earlier music.