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James Vincent McMorrow - Pure Irish Blue Eyed Soul
on 13 January 2014
What is going on here? The last time we heard from one of Ireland's finest James Vincent McMorrow it was on 2010's "Early in the Morning" where the Dublin troubadour had done a "Bon Iver" and retreated to a remote cottage albeit on the Irish coast to pour out his heart. It was a very nice album not least the haunting "From the woods" but it didn't quite set him apart from a range of artists who ploughed the sensitive singer-songwriter folk rock furrow, It seems that on this new album that McMorrow is determined to address this and come forward with a radically new offer to the listener which attempts to re-calibrate his music. "Post Tropical" owes greater debts to Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, James Blake and later Justin Vernon than it does Van Morrison & Damien Rice and it is to McMorrow's credit that he has taken this bold stride. Even more laudable is the fact that it works, indeed at its best, there are moments of icy beauty on this album which tug on the emotions so hard that they produce genuine warmth. The splendid striking opener "Cavalier" is a completely enchanting song with a great vocal. Certainly, it does have more than a hint of James Blake but whereas the latter tends to over complicate McMorrow has produced a silky smooth soul anthem which could equally soundtrack love affairs and broken hearts. He matches it later with the pulsating "Red Dust" where he sings longingly "Sometimes my hands they don't feel like my own, I need someone to love, I need someone to hold". Again this is a kind of songwriting nearer to N.E.R.D than Neil Young but if it is of this quality who cares? Likewise, the old Bon Iver influences still leach through not least on "Gold" but it is very well done.
Other highlights include the poignant soul ballad "Glacier" which could give John Legend a hit should he be wise enough to cover it, and the plaintive yet gorgeous "Outside digging" which rounds off the album in style. If there is a small criticism perhaps on times the icy sweetness does become overwhelming although to be fair the title track does have an inner hard edge. But this picking holes when in fact the album is a very strong and coherent set of songs. It is noted that the Irish Times has already declared this "the album of the year" so early in 2014. This is a little bit like the Latvian European Song Contest Jury giving the Lithuania song 10 points. In short, its, a bit early to pass such judgements and the competition will be fierce. Nevertheless "Post Tropical" is a fine sleek soul album from a brave artist turning his back on previous works and his own fan expectations upside down. Let us hope that he is richly rewarded for his ambition and boldness.